From rocky mountain runs to muddy spring trails, we tested the best trail running shoes for every use and budget.
Venturing off-road can provide a mental lift to your weekly routine and reap huge fitness gains. While we’ve all taken our road shoes to the trail, having trail-specific kicks will elevate your off-road game.
The perfect shoe is the calculus of individual fit and the type of trail you run on. To collect feedback, we had our team of testers from across the country run in diverse terrain.
From rocky scrambles to mellow hikes to the Leadville 100, we’ve worn these trail shoes through rain, summer heat, and everything in between. And while there isn’t a single perfect shoe for everyone, we’ve categorized our top picks to help you find the best fit.
Fortunately for runners, 2021-2022 was a great year for trail running shoes. Every shoe on this list is a stellar choice, with several capable of crossing over into a variety of terrain.
It’s also worth noting this article focuses on trail running shoes for men. You can find separate articles for the best trail running shoes for women, best road running shoes for men, the best road running shoes for women, the best winter running shoes, and the best trail running shoes for women.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Overall
- Best Runner-Up
- Fastest Trail Shoe
- Best Road-to-Trail
- Best Zero-Drop Shoe
- Best Mountain Runner
- Best of the Rest
The Best Men’s Trail Running Shoes of 2022
Best Overall: Salomon Ultra Glide
Salomon is a perennial GearJunkie favorite. For years, we’ve been loving Salomon’s Sense Ride series, and so has everyone else. It’s a firm stability shoe that crosses over from road to trail, and it’s a shoe we often recommend for those new to trail running.
This year, Salomon released its Ultra Glide ($140). This shoe carries over a lot of what we love about the Sense Ride, and brings a little extra. And less.
At 9.2 ounces, the Ultra Glide weighs one ounce less than the Sense Ride 4, but provides a more responsive cushion, making it a better tool for all-day cruising or those who simply want a smoother ride.
You get a similarly lugged Contragrip sole, the bombproof QuickLace system, a durable mesh upper — only with simplified overlays. The extra 6 mm of stack cushions the ride and propels the gait forward with the help of more rocker. A little less durability yields comfort for tired dogs hunting far-flung trails.
At $140, we feel that the Ultra Glide is still a good value. If that’s still a little steep, for $20 less you can still get yourself the Sense Ride 4 and buy into some extra protection and a solid trail shoe.
The Ultra Glide finally provides that plush ride a lot of us were looking for in the Sense Ride making the Ultra Glide a fantastic trail shoe for everything from daily training to long-distance ultras.
- Weight (per shoe): 9.2 oz.
- Drop: 6 mm (38/32 mm)
- Best for: This is a great all-around trail shoe with a bias for smoother trails and chops for the road. Choose this shoe for tamer trails.
- Great rebound and rocker
- Lightweight shoe
- Some runners find it too much cushion and unstable on technical terrain
Best Runner-Up: Topo Athletic MTN Racer 2
A little firmer, a little lower, and with more traction, Topo Athletic’s MTN Racer 2 ($145) is a worthy alternative to the Ultra Glide and is a good choice for runners looking for comfort on more technical terrain or shorter runs.
With versatility extending beyond its mountain namesake, the MTN Racer 2 hits the sweet spot between a cushioned ride and traction, making it a great all-rounder choice for trail runners.
Our testers praised the fit and feel of the MTN Racer. Falling in line with other Topo models, the toebox is generous but not sloppy, snugging the midfoot securely without causing friction spots around the toes. The foot is locked into the plush 30mm cushion that feels soft underfoot without compromising a lot of rebound.
The heel is secured with a seamlessly padded counter. A touch of posting runs forward off the heel counter along the midsole, and the shoe rides low — dropping from 30 to 25 mm — seating you closer to the ground for more confidence and control on off-camber, technical trails.
While the first iteration was dinged for breathability, the Racer 2 sports a TPU-reinforced mesh upper that strikes a balance between durability and breathability, making it a worthy 2.0 update.
Mesh debris wings center the thin tongue and keep the tongue tacked down the dead center with the help of a pair of ingenious lace loops. A D-ring sits over the toes and the heel counter has receptacles to attach Topo’s proprietary gaiter ($30).
We did find the laces can bind over the top of the foot. Topo threads the shoe through the topmost eyelet from the factory. There’s a second — higher and more forward-sitting — eyelet that knocks that pressure point down a bit. But in general, while there’s a toebox, the shoe still feels low volume over the midfoot.
There are faster and lighter shoes with better traction on the list. But for those who want a do-it-all stalwart daily driver, with a bend toward technical, we highly recommend looking at the MTN Racer 2.
- Weight (per shoe): 10.2 oz.
- Drop: 5 mm (30/25 mm)
- Best for: Goldilocks shoe for the generalist trail runner with a bias for more technical terrain
- Low stack and traction elevate this shoe’s ability on more technical terrain
- For those that don’t want as much cushion, it feels firmer than Salomon’s UG
- The toebox is wide
- The midfoot volume is low and can bite down on the top of the foot
Fastest Trail Shoe: HOKA ONE ONE Tecton X
We’ve seen a few brands introduce carbon plates to the running world. TNF’s VECTIV and Craft’s CTM Ultra come to mind. As you’d expect, these shoes provide spring and rigidity — and are meant to go fast.
HOKA Tecton X ($200) entered the ultrafast field with its own carbon whip, designed to keep the turnover revving toward a PR. In our opinion, the Tecton X sets the current bar for carbon-plated shoes and is worthy of consideration.
Like all HOKAs, the cushion is top shelf, with a softer layer against the foot and a denser, responsive layer closer to the ground. Sandwiched between the foams are a pair of carbon plates that give you the stiffness and spring you’d expect from carbon while yielding lateral compliance to negotiate the changing terrain.
Laced down over to just above the toes, a jacquard mesh hugs the foot, weaving in breathability and adjustable comfort for long days on the trail. A Vibram Megagrip outsole is studded with spaced 4mm lugs to shed mud without sacrificing traction.
As a whole, the Tecton X has a pop that shouts speed.
Do you need a carbon shoe? Well, with the release of the Tecton X, maybe! If you are a racer who’s been on the fence with carbon fiber plates, this is the shoe we’d recommend pulling the trigger on.
It’s a dedicated racer that can log training miles. You’ll just have to wait until it releases in May and be willing to open the wallet to meet the $200 price point.
- Weight: 8.5 oz!
- Drop: 4 mm (33/29 mm)
- Best for: Crushing your Strava time and race day performance
- Dual carbon plates are the best of the lot
- Foam cushion is very lightweight
Best Road-to-Trail: HOKA ONE ONE Zinal
Running firmer, lower, and a few Jacksons less, HOKA’s Zinal ($160) is HOKA Tecton’s trimmed-down sibling. The submaximal shoe is staged for short and fast runs. And with its lower lug height, the Zinal is our choice for road-to-trail runs.
Sporting the same engineered, jacquard mesh found in the Tecton, the upper is light and breathable and wraps the foot with exceptional comfort. It keeps the foot connected with the shoe, allowing you to speed through terrain with precision.
Out front, the shoe is minimally protected with a pliable toe rand and narrow bumper. The tongue and heel counter are lightly padded and pliable.
The reduction of materials and details cut down the weight. It’s purpose-built for speed over durability. Still, after a year of running in the Zinal, there’s plenty of life left in our pairs.
Flip the shoe over and you see the rubber tread is dispersed under the ball of the foot and heel, with a rubberized foam spreading under the arch and midfoot. The 4mm lugs are tightly packed (when present) and occasionally keep muddy stowaways. But the tread is shallow and soft.
And that’s why the Zinals are our choice for runs that start at the front door and loop the local trail. They feel smooth on the tarmac and are easy, fun shoes for days you struggle to fit it all in. If they had more traction, the Zinal would have been our choice for the best overall trail shoe for 2022.
- Weight (per shoe): 8.5 oz.
- Drop: 4 mm (22/18 mm)
- Best for: Neutral runners who want low riding cushion; great for road-to-trailhead and gravel roads
- Low chassis and weight make this a great option to the Tecton
- Lack of midfoot traction reduces grip and durability
Best Zero-Drop Shoe: Altra Timp 4
The godfather of “foot-shaped” running shoes, with a wider toebox and zero-drop platform, Altra has built a legion of followers through its unique design.
Altra just released the Timp 4 ($160) and out of the box, these are good-looking shoes. They’ve added some cushion and reduced the toebox volume. While some Altra purists may throw up their hands in blasphemy, we think it’s elevated Altra’s game, making it more approachable for most runners.
At the core of the Timp is the new EGO Max foam. Out of the box, we ran 13 miles on gravel road, sprinkled with single track. The ride was surprisingly smooth with some giddy-up in the tank when we needed it.
As one reviewer stated, “It rides like a Cadillac … Plush, comfortable, and compliant.” It doesn’t look flashy and it’s not built for performance. It’s a cushioned ride. An added bonus, the extra millimeters of stack also give it some extra underfoot protection on rougher terrain.
The upper is constructed from a durable woven mesh protected with a rubberized rand for extra durability. Light padding softens the minimal collar, heel, and tongue.
A fat pull tab helps you slip into the shoe with ease. With no structural overlays on the upper, these shoes can feel a little sloppy on technical terrain. The softer tread reinforces this.
The one factor we’re not unanimously sold on is the size. Some testers found the Timp ran small this year, while others found the stock size a perfect fit. This is a matter of foot shape and preference, but it’s worth noting.
Like most Altra models, it’s probably not a good choice for those with narrow feet. And while narrow for Altra, Timp 4 is a little wide for super-precise or technical terrain. But it’s a strong contender for anyone who wants zero drop or cushion in their queue.
- Weight (per shoe): 10.9 oz.
- Drop: Zero (stack: 29 mm)
- Best for: Wide-footed runners who need cushion; a great recovery shoe
- Smooth and comfortable midsole is among the best
- No overlays on the mesh and soft tread
- Lacks durability and stability for the long haul
Best Mountain Runner: La Sportiva Akasha II
To meet the growing interest in technical long-distance runs, La Sportiva released the Akasha II ($150), a cushioned shoe that inspires confident traction on rough terrain. Think technical, rocky, or rooted terrain, that climbs up (and down) all day.
La Sportiva is known for its snug, sporty fit. Slip into the shoe, and you feel something different. Room! For longer runs, the Akasha has more room in the toebox, cushioning, and a more judicious stack. The winning combination enables you to plow through rough trail for hours on end.
A robust cushion under the heels allows you to tap the brakes without jarring the chassis. The cushion tapers toward the toes and flexes under the metatarsals to bite down on the climbs. Out front, a stout rubber bumper deflects any zingers. The combination runs much lighter than they look.
Mountain running requires the stars to align around comfort, durability, and protection. But its north star will always be stability. You can’t risk an ankle twist above the tree line.
For extra stability, the Akasha has a solid heel cup that holds the foot in place. And the entire upper is heavily guarded by a lightweight structural TPU. The entire shoe elevates confidence on erratic terrain.
The shoe feels less responsive than others on the list. But in the end, the Akasha isn’t designed for speed on flat trails. It’s the shoe you reach for when the trail starts to throw speed-shedding obstacles in your way. And through that lens, the Akasha is arguably the faster shoe.
- Weight (per shoe): 10.9 oz.
- Drop: 6 mm (31/25 mm)
- Best for: Mountain runners chasing longer distances who need precision and stability
- Fantastic protection and traction
- Heavy shoe will feel clunky on less technical trails
Best of the Rest
There are typically two kinds of trail runners: nimble runners who dance through rocky terrain, and those who plow down the trail, letting the shoe suck up the bumps.
With a massive 28 mm of firm cushion underfoot, the ATR ($213) trends toward the latter. The foot drops into a fat cushion, providing both lateral stability and protection from sharp underlying rocks without any extra plastic stays or rock guards.
The shoe derives its Golden Gate moniker from the truss-like TPU exoskeleton, weaving a pattern of structural support across the breathable mesh upper. But it’s also a nod to the ATR’s adaptability to tackle trails that dart off the pavement and into urban parks. SCARPA built this shoe for the street to trail runner.
Most notable on the ATR is the secure fit. The neoprene bootie cuff wraps snug around the ankle and under the laces like a sock. It sucks the shoe around the foot but also does a good job of preventing pebbles and debris from slipping into the shoe. The fit is so snug, in fact, you could probably pull the laces and run in it like a slipper.
Unfortunately, we found that the slipper fit is a touch narrow compared to others. We recommend sizing up or trying these on before you buy.
- Weight: 10.2 oz.
- Drop: 4 mm (32/28 mm)
- Best for: Runners new to trail who want cushion underfoot
- Firm cushion with good rocker
- Narrow toebox may not fit some feet
- Consider sizing up half-size
The most minimal trail shoe on our list (or most maximal minimal shoe), the SL 2 ($160) is Arc’teryx’s approach trail shoe for climbers hiking off the backside of routes. But it works great for runners who want a racy shoe with a low profile.
If you’re looking for cushion, padding, and support, you can look elsewhere. The SL 2 is stripped down to the basics. Other than the midsole and a pair of pads on the heel counter, there’s no padding.
The upper is a durable mesh embedded with TPU layups for support. There are no gussets around the tongue or pull-loop in back. The slot on the medial collar clips the pair to your harness.
Incredibly airy, the SL 2 vents very well, but things tend to cool off quickly. We wore this shoe on a winter run through hardpacked snow, and the heat poured off the foot. In summer, trail dust seems to pour in just as freely.
The footprint is narrow and small and doesn’t provide robust stability. It lacks the midsole support you’ll see on stouter trail runners. You notice this more on technical trails that demand attention to where you plant your feet. This plays well with climbers who inherently like to hone their footwork.
But it also has a way of reigniting a fire under those trails you tend to run over and over again. The vapor minimalism gives you fresh eyes to see those overworked go-to routes.
Price-to-shoe ratio, the SL 2 can be off-putting. But, it follows the trend for weight-weeny gear, where lighter materials, durability, and niche application typically cost more.
Given this is such a specific shoe, we wouldn’t recommend the SL 2 for runners looking for a daily trainer. It’s going to be your third or fourth pair, for those specific days with unique weight requirements.
- Weight (per shoe): 6 oz.
- Drop: 7 mm (19/12 mm)
- Best for: Neutral runners who want a minimal trail shoe for run-to-scramble adventures
- Light and airy shoe disappears underfoot
- Not a lot of shoe and will be limiting for most days
The Catamount ($160) is Brooks’ cushion shoe for uptempo trail runs. Utilizing Brooks DNA flash foam, its pedigree reminds us a lot of its road shoe line. With sexy good looks, the sleek design is flawlessly constructed and wears fantastic out of the box.
Brooks protects the shoe from the trail with overlays that cradle the upper and runs a rock plate through the midsole to protect the feet from rough terrain. The nitrogen-infused midsole adds rebound and cushion over a full rubber outsole studded with 3.5mm multidirectional lugs.
The Cat is a very fast shoe and a good choice for road runners looking for speed on gravel or tamer trails. Tipping just over 9 ounces, it works both as a trainer and a racer.
Rock plate aside, given its slim lug profile, we feel the shoe falls short on the technical, preventing it from leveling up to the best in the field.
- Weight: 9.3 oz.
- Drop: 6 mm (26/20 mm)
- Best for: Responsive speed and door-to-trail runs
- A fast and springy trail shoe
- Wonderful fit right out of the box
- Traction is among the shallowest of the bunch
- We don’t recommend them for technical terrain
Incredibly popular with the athleisure crowd, On Running shoes wins the war on looks. And the brand makes some solid running shoes, too. Our top pick from On for the trail is their Cloudultra ($180).
Core to the shoe is On’s Helion foam. It’s engineered to provide rigid cushioning underfoot and flexibility in the toes. While this rigidity provides good rock protection and a structural rocker, the foam can feel harsh. And there’s a lot of it running over the luggy outer sole, giving protection and traction on the trail.
For feet that swell over the miles, On has integrated a nifty FlipRelease adjustment knob on the laces over the toebox that when untoggled, opens the space over the feet a few millimeters.
Across the line of On shoes, we find that the brand’s collar feels stiff. That’s the same story here, which is only compounded by the sock-like cuff that seals the foot in the shoe.
The bootie construction makes it a struggle to get into, but once you’re in, the shoe locks around the foot and remains very breathable. This makes the Cloudultra ideal for hot, dry trail runs where dust and debris can often kick into the shoe.
And of course, the Cloudultra looks great après run.
- Weight (per pair): 10.4 oz.
- Drop: 8 mm
- Best for: Runners with low-volume feet who run rocky trails on hot days
- Beautiful craftsmanship in a sharp-looking shoe
- The fit feels like a compression shoe
- Firm ride in a heavy shoe can tire legs over longer distances
- The compression fit can bind at the ankles at the collar of the shoe
Why You Should Trust Us
Steve Graepel, the author of this guide, has been running for 30 years. During his time on his feet, he’s clocked a sub-3-hour marathon, won the Superior Trail Ultra 50 miler, and made the first known rim-to-rim-to-rim of Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest canyon. Steve can be found testing shoes in and around the Boise foothills with his two dogs.
To complement Steve’s personal expertise, GearJunkie has a crew of three runners collecting miles and feedback throughout the year.
A fitness-focused runner who logs miles for both cardio and agility, Adam Ruggiero run-commutes on pavement daily, and adds box jumps and stairs to his regular routine. Ruggiero logs 20-25 miles a week, with mid-distance trail runs at elevation on the weekends.
Fast is slow, and slow is M.T. Elliot. A recreational runner — and our resident Clydesdale runner — Elliot prefers the crunch of dirt over asphalt but runs on both.
Sean McCoy is a middle-of-the-pack ultra runner who, when not leading the Denver-based GearJunkie team, gets lost running and racing the Colorado high country.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Trail Running Shoe
Staring at a wall of shoes or endlessly browsing an online retailer can be overwhelming. We’ve broken down some helpful tips to find the right shoe.
Consider Where You Run
These days, manufacturers have dialed shoes for nearly every niche of running. A quick way to hone in on the right shoe is to identify where you run.
Road running shoes are primarily suitable for hard surfaces, with breathable uppers and smooth traction for pavement, track, and treadmills. Cushion and stability can vary (we’ll cover that more below).
Trail running shoes have an aggressive lug pattern that bites into dirt, sand, and mud. But not all treads are the same. A blocky, cleat-like tread will shed mud in the Pacific Northwest but can feel clunky on hardpack found in the Southwest and can cause trips and falls.
Trail shoes also have a more durable upper, a robust toe bumper, and a firmer sole or even a rock plate — all to protect the feet from underlying roots and rocks.
Roadrunner or trail shoe? These aren’t hard-and-fast rules. All the editors at GearJunkie run to the trailhead on the road, and we’re all guilty of taking a road shoe for a spin on the trail. If that sounds like you, we’ve indicated where a shoe can cross over effectively.
Identify Your Running Gait
Everybody has a natural gait, and it leaves a thumbprint on your shoes. To get an idea of how you run, flip your shoes over and take a look at the wear pattern on the soles.
- Neutral pronation shows a wear pattern that scuffs the outside of the heel and the ball of the foot. A neutral shoe will probably be your best bet.
- Overpronation shows wear along the inside edge of your shoe (meaning your feet are rolling off the big and middle toes). People with low arches will certainly pronate, and that can poorly load joints up the chain. A stability shoe may help, but don’t overdo it. Just find a comfortable shoe that feels good and naturally supports the foot.
- Supination, or underpronation, is identified by long wear patterns along the outside edge of your shoes (caused by the feet rolling out). It can also be caused by inflexible, rigid, or high arches. Supination is less common, but the evidence is pretty clear here. The most important thing you can do is buy a cushioned shoe.
Stack and Drop
Unless you’re running barefoot, every shoe has a stack. Measured in millimeters (mm), the stack refers to how high the insole sits off the ground.
Shoes with more cushion inherently have a higher stack. Furthermore, most shoes have a “drop” in stack height from the heel to the toe. Zero drop refers to a shoe whose toe and heel stack are the same measurement. Zero drop shoes mimic a more natural, “barefoot” running feel.
If you’re new to running or younger, experts recommend a lower heel drop. It builds a wider range of motion and strength, which makes you a healthier runner overall.
For experienced runners who grew up on a generation of high-stack shoes, your legs will appreciate a more judicious stack.
Stepping into a high-cushion shoe can feel like walking on a cloud. Those running longer distances (or who supinate) will prefer more cushion to damp the repetitive pounding and provide support. But it can become a penalty. Extra foam adds extra weight.
So, is more cushion better? Not always. It’s about finding the right balance between speed and comfort. If you’re aiming for a new PR, look for a light, stiffer shoe with a harder cushion and minimal lug friction.
Flexibility is your friend on the trails. You need variability to match the variable terrain.
Trail runners will prefer a shoe with a firm outsole and less cushion, but a firm toebox to push off of. Flexibility and torsion can help the foot adapt to the trail and prevent injuries, like rolling an ankle.
For most trail running, we prefer a shoe that breathes well. Waterproof membranes will cause your feet to sweat faster than any waterproof membrane can keep up. This leaves your feet wet, clammy, and exposed to hot spots.
Obvious exceptions include really muddy or snowy trails at ultra lengths and possibly cold, wet weather. Generally, though, stick with highly breathable shoes.
Lugs & Traction
Compared to road running shoes, trail runners will want grippy soles to navigate the slick, uneven, rocky, and muddy terrain. Look carefully at the trails you plan to run. If they’re mostly covered with stones and hard dirt, a short lug pattern will be great.
Those who run on lots of muddy or soft surfaces should look at a deeper lug pattern.
Running shoes should be as light as possible while still offering the protection you desire. This matters both for the fast runner as well as the ultra-distance runner, where those added ounces add up over the day.
Anything over about 12 ounces (for a men’s size 9) is just too heavy. Lighter is better, but lightweight shoes tend to wear out more quickly than thicker, more overbuilt shoes.
Break through the overwhelming number of options and get some guidance with the answers to frequently asked questions.
Which Trail Running Shoes Should I Buy?
With so many options to choose from, it can be challenging to choose the right trail shoes. Here are three things to consider as you shop:
- Set realistic running goals. If you dream of running a 100-miler one day, but realistically will use the shoes for 5-mile training loops around your local park, buy shoes for the latter use first.
- Consider shoe width. For folks with wide feet or those running very long distances, a wide forefoot can be a bonus that lets toes splay. The downside is that wider shoes are less precise, can be a little more clumsy, and won’t fit well on people with narrow feet.
- Test out the tongue. Does it fit comfortably? Will it keep rocks out of your shoe?
For more help choosing, check out the complete guide to choosing a trail running shoe.
How Long Do Running Shoes Last?
The life of a shoe depends on a variety of factors, including running style, weight, and how often they’re used. But in general, 300 to 500 miles is a good rule of thumb.
So if you run 10 miles per week, your shoes could last 8 months to a year. If you’re logging 20 miles per week, plan on replacing your running shoes every 4 to 6 months.
And if you see excessive wear patterns, holes, and tears or notice a decrease in footbed comfort, it’s probably time to grab a new pair of sneakers.
Can You Run on the Road With Trail Shoes?
You can certainly run anywhere in your trail shoes. That said, most find the aggressive lug pattern of a trail shoe is uncomfortable on pavement. Hard surfaces like cement or pavement also quickly wear down the sole of a trail running shoe.
If you’re running on the road to get to your trail, you’ll be fine. If you plan to run mostly on roads, it would be better to get a dedicated road running shoe.
Can I Use Running Shoes for Hiking?
We have seen a big shift on the trail from hiking boots to lighter-weight shoes, including trail running shoes for hiking. Trail running shoes offer up excellent traction in a lighter, more nimble package.
While many backpackers still prefer a boot, we know thru-hikers who make major miles in trail running shoes. If you’re looking for something in between, it’s worth considering a hiking shoe.
Other Expert Picks
For additional expert opinions on the best trail running shoes, check out the advice in iRunFar’s Best Trail Running Shoes and Switchback Travel’s Best Trail Running Shoes of 2022.