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The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024

From muddy local trails to epic mountain runs, we've found the best trail running shoes for women.
Best Trail Running Shoes for Women Review 2018
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Sure, you could get away with wearing normal sneakers on the trail, but having a pair of trail-specific running shoes provides increased comfort, grip, and protection from rocks and debris.

From the forest trails of the American South to the rocky peaks of the Pacific Northwest, we spent months running, hiking, and testing to find the best trail running shoes for women. While testing, we focused on choosing a variety of shoe styles to fit each runner’s needs and feet — because the shoe each trail runner needs is as unique as the trails they run.

Whether you prefer a minimalist feel, extra cushion, extreme grip, or a do-it-all workhorse, we’re confident you’ll find a new favorite running shoe here. Get ready to lace up and hit the trails.

Our current author, Constance Mahoney, is an avid runner who has completed distances from local 5ks to trail ultramarathons. She recently heavily revamped this guide, testing over 10 different trail shoes and making sure only the most deserving, current selection is represented in this guide.

Be sure to check out our handy comparison chart, buyer’s guide, and FAQ at the bottom of this article for help in finding the perfect fit.

Editor’s Note: This guide was updated on April 10, 2024. This round of updates includes the Brooks Cascadia 17, Brooks Caldera 7, and Brooks Catamount 3 models.

The Best Women’s Trail Running Shoes of 2024

Best Overall Women's Trail Running Shoe

Salomon Sense Ride 5


  • Weight (per pair) 17.4 oz.
  • Drop 8.3 mm (29.6/21.3 mm)
  • Upper material Textile/synthetic
  • Best for Long or short runs on mixed-terrain or urban trails
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • Highly breathable
  • Single system lacing
  • Great traction for various terrain
  • Excellent support


  • Rigid
  • No rock guard
  • Snug fit
Best Budget Women's Trail Running Shoe

Asics Trail Scout 3


  • Weight (per pair) 18 oz.
  • Drop 10 mm
  • Upper material Abrasion-resistant mesh
  • Best for Town-trail shoes, hiking
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • Affordable
  • Great heel lockdown
  • Vegan
  • Road to trail transition


  • Heavy
  • Stiff
Runner-Up Best Women's Trail Running Shoe

Brooks Cascadia 17


  • Weight (per pair) 19.6 oz.
  • Drop 8mm
  • Upper material Recycled mesh
  • Best for Trail races, long runs, all-in-one trail shoe
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • Gaiter attachments
  • Aggressive lugs
  • Responsive
  • All-trail shoe


  • Heavy
  • Inconsistent sizing
Best Wide Toebox Women's Trail Running Shoe

Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3


  • Weight (per pair) 16.06 oz.
  • Drop 5 mm (35/30 mm)
  • Upper material Recycled mesh
  • Best for Trail running, hiking
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • Great for those who prefer wide toe box
  • Outstanding cushioning
  • Lightweight
  • Gaiter compatible
  • Incredible traction


  • Tight around the ankle
  • Breaking in may be required
  • Stiff heel
  • Felt clunky
Most Comfortable Women's Trail Running Shoe

Hoka Speedgoat 5


  • Weight (per pair) 17 oz.
  • Drop 4 mm (31/27 mm)
  • Upper material Recycled engineered mesh
  • Best for Regular runs, trail races, and dry technical scrambles
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • Offers wide sizes
  • Highly cushioned for comfort
  • Great at draining water
  • Vegan


  • Short, uncomfortable tongue
  • Too long of toebox
Best Women's Trail Running Shoe for Mud

Brooks Caldera 7


  • Weight (per pair) 18.8 oz.
  • Drop 6 mm (26/20 mm)
  • Upper material Air Mesh
  • Best for Runners who want maximum cushion and comfort
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • Aggressive lugs
  • Incredibly comfortable
  • Outstanding cushion
  • Lace keepers


  • Heavy
Best of the Rest

Merrell Trail Glove 7


  • Weight (per pair) 14.46 oz.
  • Drop Zero
  • Upper material 100% recycled breathable mesh
  • Best for Runners who want an affordable, bare-minimum shoe
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • Affordable price
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Keeps feet in a natural gait
  • Barely-there feel


  • Not ideal for rugged terrain
  • Fits narrow

Hoka Zinal 2


  • Weight (per pair) 13.4 oz.
  • Drop 5mm (30/25mm)
  • Best for Trail races, fast trail runs
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • Lightweight
  • Aggressive lugs
  • Responsive
  • Very breathable


  • Knit collar may be uncomfortable for some
  • Narrow for a Hoka shoe

Brooks Catamount 3


  • Weight (per pair) 16.8 oz.
  • Drop 6 mm (22/16 mm)
  • Upper material Single-layer TPEE mesh
  • Best for Trail racing, speed sessions
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2024


  • SkyVault propulsion plate
  • Rock plate
  • Lightweight
  • Drains water efficiently


  • Narrow
  • Expensive

Women’s Trail Running Shoes Comparison Chart

Trail Running ShoePriceWeight (Per Pair)DropUpper Material
Salomon Sense Ride 5
$14017.4 oz.8.3 mm (29.6/21.3 mm)Textile/synthetic
Asics Trail Scout 3$6019.4 oz.9.4mmAbrasion-resistant mesh
Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3$15016.06 oz.5 mm (35/30 mm)Recycled mesh
Hoka Speedgoat 5$15517 oz.4 mm (31/27 mm)Recycled engineered mesh
Brooks Cascadia 17$14019.6 oz.8mmRecycled mesh
Merrell Trail Glove 7$12014.46 oz.Zero100% recycled breathable mesh
Brooks Caldera 7$15018.08 oz.6 mm (26/20 mm)Synthetic air mesh
Hoka Zinal 2$16013.4 oz.5mm (30/25mm)Recycled polyester mesh
Brooks Catamount 3$17016.8 oz.6mm (22/16mm)Single-layer TPEE mesh
Women's Trail Running Shoes
Each of the shoes in this guide was thoroughly tested by our running experts; (photo/Rebecca Ross)

How We Tested Women’s Trail Running Shoes

Athletes from GearJunkie have accumulated decades of experience in outdoor running, casual running, marathons, and ultramarathons. We combine our years of experience and education to provide advice on all running-related gear.

To test these women’s trail shoes, we ran on a range of trails from buttery singletrack to rocky technical peaks and wet, muddy surfaces. During these runs, we paid careful attention to comfort, stability, outsole traction and grip, and durability. We tested each pair on long runs, tempo runs, and hill sprints. We inspected the shoes after each run to see if there was any visual wear and tear.

We understand that women’s trail running shoes are being updated each season, which can be frustrating when you finally find a shoe you love. We make sure to test the updates to see if they are worth the upgrade or if you should stick with the version you have and sit tight for the next round. 

Lead author Constance Mahoney is an experienced runner who has completed distances from local 5ks to trail ultramarathons. In 2021, she founded and continues to lead the Trail Sisters Crested Butte, Colo. chapter. Constance has been a GearJunkie contributor since 2019, after she reviewed outdoor gear for FitnessTravelGear.com for two years.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Trail Running Shoe

Knowing which shoe is the right one for you can be daunting. That is why we are demystifying the shoe selection process by providing you with useful tips to find the shoe that best meets your running needs. 

This article focuses on the best women’s trail running shoes. In separate articles, we have also outlined the best women’s road running shoes and the best winter running shoes.

Women's Trail Running Shoes
With so many models on the market, try and think about what you specifically need for your runs before purchasing any trail running shoe; (photo/Rebecca Ross)

Where You Run Matters

There’s a lot to consider with running shoes, and where you plan on running matters. Do you plan on running on pavement? Or do you anticipate hitting the trails? Will the trails be all dirt or have a mixture of gravel? Your options will often consist of either a road or trail running shoe.

Road running shoes are designed for compact, smooth, and even surfaces. These shoes will have minimal features that make them lightweight and flexible with smooth soles. Keep in mind that these shoes may not be great for rocky, gravel, or uneven terrain.

Trail running shoes are for runners who want to deviate from the well-groomed paths and venture off-road. In order to do this, trail running shoes are made with deep lugs and traction patterns that can manage anything the environment may have in its way, including roots, boulders, stumps, and more. Trail running shoes may, though not always, have plates and stiffer midsoles in addition to offering support and protecting your feet from jagged rocks and sharp objects.

Identify Your Running Gait

Knowing your running gait will help you determine the best trail running shoes for your needs; (photo/Conni Mahoney)

The term “pronation” refers to the way your foot rolls, which has an effect on your joints. Do you have an inward or outward foot roll? Knowing this will be helpful for you to decide what kind of assistance your running requires.

An easy way to identify your running gait is to examine the soles of your existing shoes and determine where they typically wear out. Or visit a foot expert to determine your type of pronation.

  • Basic, or neutral, pronation is different for everyone, but ultimately a neutral pronation is when your foot naturally rolls slightly inward to distribute the body’s impact upon landing.
  • Overpronation is when your foot rolls too far inward, which means your shoes will show signs of wear on the insides of them.
  • Supination, or underpronation is when your feet roll outward, resulting in the outer part of the heel striking the ground first, which will show signs of wear on the outermost edges.
Women's Trail Running Shoes
It’s important to identify your gait while you run to help you narrow in on the best trail running shoes for your needs; (photo/Rebecca Ross)

Stack and Heel-to-Toe Drop 

Unless you’re running barefoot, every shoe has a stack. Measured in millimeters, 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.

If you’re new to running, experts recommend a lower heel stack because it builds a wider range of motion and strength, which makes you a healthier runner.

Another factor to consider is the heel-to-toe drop, also known as the “drop,” measured in millimeters. A shoe’s drop is the difference in cushion height between the heel and the toe. If a shoe has a drop of 10 millimeters, it means the heel will be 10 millimeters higher than the toe.

Those who run on the balls of their feet should choose a zero-drop shoe like the Merrell Trail Glove 7. Additionally, those who run heel-to-toe (heel strikers) should aim for a shoe with a larger drop, such as the Salomon Sense Ride 5, which has an 8.3mm drop for optimal joint support.

The degree of heel-toe-drop and the level of cushion in a shoe varies greatly; (photo/Conni Mahoney)


A shoe’s cushion is often made from EVA or polyurethane to help absorb the repetitive impact against hard surfaces. With increased cushioning, it becomes more impact-absorbing, which is advantageous for extended runs. However, the weight of the shoe will increase with the amount of cushioning.

How much cushion you need for running depends on what feels right for you and whether you require something lightweight with minimal cushioning for a natural feel, as with the Merrell Trail Glove 7. Alternatively, you can choose from the Brooks Caldera 7 or the Hoka Speedgoat 5 if you want lots of cushioning for extra comfort.

Women's Trail Running Shoes
The Merrell Trail Glove 7 offers minimal cushion, but has a natural feel; (photo/Rebecca Ross)


For runners, particularly those with flat feet or overpronation, shoe stability is intended to offer additional support in the midsole or arch to limit the foot from rolling inward too far. Ideal shoe support is designed to stabilize your foot and keep it in a more neutral position.

When considering the right stability for your needs, evaluate whether you require additional structure to compensate for excessive inward rolling. Also, keep in mind that many runners feel a decrease in stability when running in shoes with a greater stack height. The more material between your feet and the trail, the harder it is to feel and react to uneven surfaces, loose rocks, and slippery gravel.

Rock Plate

Some running shoes are equipped with rock plates or a built-in nylon shank. When tackling mountain slopes, these built-in structures are intended to shield the bottom of your feet from soreness and bruising. While many of the shoes on our list have rock guards, one to consider is the Brooks Catamount 3, as this version has all the perks of the Catamount 2, with the addition of a rock plate. 

Rock plates, however, are unnecessary when running on flat surfaces because they contribute extra weight. Additionally, some shoes, like the Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, have sufficient cushioning and do not require the addition of rock plates.


Flexibility is an important factor to consider when making the transition from road to trail running and encountering slippery or loose terrain; (photo/Conni Mahoney)

For trail running specifically, shoe flexibility is important. It helps you adjust to the terrain of the trails without injuring yourself. Ideally, the shoe will flex (or crease) near the same spot your foot flexes while pushing off. To test the flexibility of your shoe, hold the shoe with one hand on the heel and the other on the toebox.

Compress the shoe together and see where the crease happens. It should bend where the balls of your feet are. If it is hard to crease, then you have a stiffer shoe. However, the shoe should not wholly collapse on itself. You still want support and structure.  

A shoe should not only flex with your natural forward gait, but it should also twist a little side to side. Again, hold your shoe from heel to toe, but twist the shoe in opposite directions this time. You should get a twist, but not so much as if you are ringing out a rag. 

How much flexibility is needed is a personal preference, and a lot of it depends on your biomechanics and running style. Typically, if you are running fast, a stiffer shoe will help provide a more responsive and efficient turnover, hence why many race shoes are now carbon plated. But a more flexible shoe will be more optimal if you are going the distance and looking for a cushion to help with muscle fatigue.  

Keep notes when testing a shoe; if the flex point or the amount of flex makes you change your gait (assuming you don’t need it to change), try a different shoe. Also, something to remember when running in colder temps, the weather changes the stiffness of a shoe! So what feels good in the summer may change when winter hits.

A certain degree of flexibility is vital for dealing with the variety of terrain you encounter on a trail run; (photo/Conni Mahoney)


One of the features we look for in running shoes is breathability. Nothing is worse than going for a run on a hot day and having your feet overheat, causing them to sweat, leading to blisters or, worse — some type of fungal/bacterial infection.

We look for shoes with uppers made from mesh or some other material that allows air and water vapor to wick out of the shoe. The porous upper material also lets cool air in. However, the trade-off is it doesn’t stop dirt and grime from entering the shoe. To get the most out of your shoes, be sure to wear appropriate socks that also wick moisture from your feet.

We recommend the Merrell Trail Glove 7 and the Salomon Sense Ride 5, as both have excellent ventilation.


Waterproof membranes are best when running in cold, wet, or snowy conditions. Do keep in mind that they work just as well to keep moisture out as they do to keep moisture in.

Oftentimes, we tend to avoid waterproof membranes unless running in the aforementioned circumstances for extended periods of time, because they tend to trap heat, leaving feet feeling damp, clammy, or wet, which can lead to friction blisters.

Our pick for such conditions, when we know terrain or weather necessitates water resistance, are the Hoka Speedgoat 5 or the Altra Lone Peak 7, which are rated highly, in our opinion, for muddy trails.

Water-resistant trail running shoes are helpful while charging over wet, sludgy trails, but aren’t as breathable; (photo/Conni Mahoney)


Running shoe materials can impact the shoe’s performance — including weight, breathability, water resistance, and durability. Many brands have signature styles and blends, but the base materials are similar.

Most uppers on shoes are made with synthetic mesh. Depending on how intricately constructed they are, they can offer unique features such as gaiter attachments or knit collars. The fabric blends can also create better breathability and more durability in areas that need them the most. Some shoes like Asics Trail Scout 3 are vegan-friendly. 

Below the upper is the midsole. This is where the cushion sits between the upper and the outsole. The cushion is generally made of a technical foam product. EVA foam is the most popular as it is lightweight for the amount of cushion it gives. Brands like Brooks and Salomon have their own proprietary foam blends. 

If your shoe has a rock plate, it sits between the midsole and the outsole. They can be made from hard plastic or carbon fiber material. 

Next is the outsole. The outsole is the bottom of the shoe that comes in contact with the trail or road. Because of its durability and traction capabilities, the outsole is almost always made from rubber. Again, each brand has its own blend and lug pattern. Although lightweight running shoes are made of fewer materials and weigh less, they use more expensive materials, such as carbon, rubber, or rock plates, which are more likely to raise the price of the shoes.

Trail running shoes need to feature durable but lightweight materials for long-term comfort on demanding trails; (photo/Conni Mahoney)

Lugs and Traction

When it comes to how much grip you want, you’ll need to consider where you’ll be running and in what conditions. Outsoles with a lot of grip are great for varying terrain or deep mud, and will have aggressive-looking deep lugs that allow for more purchase on the ground without slipping. 

On the other hand, if you are sticking to the pavement or compact dirt, lugs that are 5mm-7mm in height can be uncomfortable and unnecessary. Additionally, pebbles will frequently get stuck in the lugs if you run on gravel roads. As a result, shallower lugs are what you need.

Lug patterns also make a difference. Many shoes make it a point to have lugs that are multi-directionally patterned from heel to toe so that you can stop quicker and on a dime. The shoe with the best traction on our list, and for good reason, is the Hoka Speedgoat 5, designed for slick, muddy conditions with its impressive 5mm Vibram Traction lugs to grip soft, deep dirt.

Another recommendation is the Altra Timp 5, which has multidirectional lugs for quick turns on narrow single track that will keep you on your feet.

Solid traction is important for confidence on loose, slippery terrain; (photo/Conni Mahoney)


Running shoes should be lightweight while still providing adequate protection for the running style you prefer. Those looking for a pair of ultradistance running shoes shouldn’t choose anything that will make them feel weighed down.

In the running world, any shoe that weighs more than 12 ounces is generally regarded as heavy. If you want to be considered “lightweight,” you should strive for between 6.5 and 12 ounces. The lightest shoe on the list is the Merrell Trail Glove 7, weighing 14.4 ounces, which doesn’t qualify as incredibly lightweight, but they do offer durability to tackle moderate trails. The lightest trail shoe we have reviewed to date is the Saucony Endorphin Rift at 8.6 ounces.

At the heavier end of the spectrum sits the Brooks Caldera 7, weighing 18.8 ounces. These beefy shoes are meant to handle rugged terrain with ease.

Solid trail running shoes are key for maximizing comfort and preventing injury on rough backcountry trails; (photo/Conni Mahoney)


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Test out the tongue. Does it fit comfortably? Will it keep rocks out of your shoe?

For more help choosing, check out our complete buyer’s guide to choosing a trail running shoe.

How should trail running shoes fit?

Stack and Drop

Unless you’re running barefoot, every shoe has a stack. Measured in millimeters, 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.

If you’re new to running, experts recommend a lower heel drop; it builds a wider range of motion and strength, which makes you a healthier runner.


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.

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, or tears — or if you notice a decrease in footbed comfort — it’s probably time to grab a new pair of sneakers.

A reliable pair of trail running shoes will carry you through hundreds of miles of backcountry memories; (photo/Conni Mahoney)

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