Trail running provides a thrilling experience, blending the beauty of nature with the challenge of stretching one’s physical capabilities.

However, choosing the right shoes for trail running is crucial for comfort and performance.

This comprehensive guide will discuss the best trail running shoes in 2023, covering various preferences and needs. Get ready to hit the trails with confidence and style!

Short Summary

  • We have compiled a list of the top trail running shoes for 2023, catering to a wide range of preferences and needs.
  • When selecting the right shoe, consider terrain type, cushioning levels, heel-to-toe drop, and fit.
  • Proper care is essential for optimal performance from your trail running shoes.

Top Trail Running Shoes for 2023

trail running shoes rocky terrainTrail running shoes, including rugged trail shoes, are specifically designed to tackle the challenges of uneven terrain, providing stability, support, and protection for your feet.

The best trail running shoes for 2023 cater to a wide range of preferences and needs, ensuring that every trail runner can find their perfect trail shoe.

We’ve covered you from overall performance to technical terrain, lightweight options, wide feet, waterproof features, and budget-friendly choices.

Best Overall: Hoka Speedgoat 5

The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is the ultimate trail running shoe for various terrains and distances, offering a winning combination of comfort, performance, and style.

Its 4mm drop, 10oz weight, and neutral support type make it an excellent choice for seasoned trail runners and newcomers.

This shoe’s remarkable cushioning ensures a comfortable ride, even during extended downhill runs.

Its stability and superior traction make it ideal for technical trails, while its robust construction guarantees durability and protection.

Our experience with the Hoka Speedgoat 5 has been highly satisfying, and we believe it’s the best overall trail running shoe for 2023.

Best for Technical Terrain: Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3

If you frequently encounter technical terrain, the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 is the trail running shoe for you.

Its lightweight and durable construction, excellent traction, and protection make it perfect for tackling challenging trails.

While the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 has a higher price tag, its numerous advantages outweigh the drawbacks.

Its stability, responsiveness, comfortable fit, impressive traction, and durability make it a top choice for technical terrain.

The Salomon Sense Ride shoe’s 5mm+ lugs provide remarkable stability on uneven surfaces, ensuring a secure footing regardless of trail conditions.

Best Lightweight Option: Brooks Catamount 2

The Brooks Catamount 2 is an excellent choice for those seeking a fast, agile, lightweight trail running shoe.

This lightweight and nimble shoe is perfect for runners who want a responsive ride and improved traction, making it especially suitable for races and speed workouts.

A unique feature of the Brooks Catamount 2 is its SkyVault propulsion plate, which enhances the shoe’s responsiveness and energy return.

While the Catamount 2 is recommended for distances up to 50K, it remains an outstanding option for shorter trail races and speedy training sessions.

Best for Wide Feet: Altra Lone Peak 7

Runners with wide feet often struggle to find comfortable trail running shoes, but the Altra Lone Peak 7 offers a solution.

Its wide toe box and zero-drop design make it an ideal choice for those with wider feet, providing both comfort and versatility on rugged trails.

The Altra Lone Peak 7 is one of our top picks for mid-length to longer runs when a lightweight and speedy shoe is desired.

Its zero-drop design offers various benefits, including promoting a more natural running stride and reducing the risk of injury.

Best Waterproof: Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GTX

The Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GTX is your go-to waterproof trail running shoe for wet and muddy trail conditions. This shoe offers excellent protection and performance on wet surfaces, ensuring your feet stay dry and comfortable throughout your run.

The Pegasus Trail 4 GTX features a 10mm heel-to-toe drop and weighs 9oz, making it a well-balanced option for various trail conditions. For those who prioritize waterproofing, this shoe is an excellent choice for confidently tackling challenging weather conditions.

Best Budget-Friendly: Saucony Peregrine 13

If you’re looking for an affordable and versatile trail running shoe, the Saucony Peregrine 13 is the perfect option. With great traction, fit, and protection, this shoe suits various trail conditions and distances, making it an excellent budget-friendly choice.

The Saucony Peregrine 13 offers a speedy, versatile performance, suitable for various terrains, foot shapes, and distances.

Its upper mesh has been designed to be softer than the previous iteration, and the cushioning has been upgraded by 1.5mm. This shoe costs $140 and provides excellent value for trail runners of all levels.

Selecting the Right Trail Running Shoe

running on a rocky terrainChoosing the right trail running shoe can be daunting, but understanding the key factors to consider can make the process much easier.

In this section, we’ll discuss terrain considerations, cushioning levels, heel-to-toe drop, and fit, all of which are crucial in finding the perfect trail running shoe for your needs.

Terrain is an important factor to consider when selecting a trail running shoe. Different types of soft terrain require specific features in a running shoe to ensure optimal performance during trail running.

Terrain Considerations

The type of trail, climate, and personal preferences are all essential factors to consider when selecting the right trail running shoe. Different terrains require specific shoe features and designs for optimal performance and comfort.

For example, hybrid shoes with shorter lugs (2mm to 4mm) and a softer on-road feel are suitable for soft singletrack and local wooded trails that don’t require you to reduce your speed due to uncertain footing.

On the other hand, shoes with larger lugs and softer, stickier rubber provide better grip on rocky trails and uneven surfaces.

Cushioning Levels

Cushioning levels in trail running shoes range from minimal to maximal, depending on the runner’s preference and the distance they plan to cover. Barefoot or minimal cushioning is designed to strengthen your feet and lower leg muscles, while mid-range cushioning offers versatility for various trail conditions.

For example, the extra cushioning in the Brooks Cascadia 16 provides improved comfort on challenging, rocky trails, making it a great option for those who prioritize comfort and protection.

Heel-to-Toe Drop

Heel-to-toe drop is important when selecting trail running shoes, as it can affect your running form and comfort. The heel-to-toe drop is the variance in stack height between the heel and toe of the shoe and can range from zero to 10mm or higher.

Shoes with a high heel-to-toe drop of 7mm and above are suggested for those who typically land heel first, while zero-drop shoes promote a more natural running stride and reduce the risk of injury.

Fit and Sizing

trail running shoesFit and size are crucial for comfort and performance in trail running shoes. It’s essential to try on multiple pairs and sizes to find the perfect fit for your feet.

The sole of a trail running shoe should be equal to or wider than the width of your foot for the entire length and should comfortably fit the curve of your arch.

Achieving the right fit and feel is paramount for comfort and optimal performance, ensuring you can confidently tackle any trail.

Caring for Your Trail Running Shoes

rocky terrain with trail running shoesProper care and maintenance of your trail running shoes can prolong their lifespan and ensure optimal performance. Here are some tips on how to care for your trail running shoes:

  • Clean your shoes after each run to remove dirt and debris
  • Replace the laces and insoles regularly to maintain support and comfort
  • Store your shoes in a cool, dry place to prevent material degradation
  • Rotate between two or more pairs of shoes to allow them to dry out and maintain their cushioning and support

By following these simple steps, you can keep your trail running shoes in excellent condition and get the most out of them on every run.

Transitioning from Road to Trail Running

trail running shoesIf you’re making the switch from road to trail running, there are a few adjustments you’ll need to make to ensure a smooth transition.

First, familiarize yourself with the different terrain types and choose the right trail running shoes for the trails you plan to tackle. Gradually increase your trail mileage to allow your body to adapt to new surfaces and challenges.

Additionally, be prepared for a change in running form, as trail running often requires a shorter stride and faster cadence to navigate uneven terrain.

By adjusting to different terrain, choosing the right trail running shoes, and gradually increasing your trail mileage, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the exciting world of trail running.


In conclusion, choosing the right trail running shoes is essential for comfort, performance, and injury prevention.

By considering factors such as terrain, cushioning levels, heel-to-toe drop, and fit, you can find the perfect trail running shoe for your needs.

With our top trail running shoe recommendations for 2023 and tips on selecting and caring for your shoes, you’ll be ready to tackle any trail confidently and in style. Happy trails!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use running shoes for trail running?

You can use running shoes for trail running, although they are not designed specifically for the terrain and may not provide the exact grip as a pair of trail-running shoes. The rigid pavement can also quickly wear away the soft rubber outsoles of trail running shoes.

What’s the difference between trail shoes and running shoes?

Trail shoes are designed to provide increased grip and stability on soft, uneven surfaces compared to road running shoes, with sticky rubber outsoles enhancing traction. They also tend to be more durable to withstand the abuses of a hard trail run.

However, their softer soles don’t stand up as well to the pavement and other hard surfaces.

Is it OK to use trail running shoes on the road?

Using trail running shoes on the road is OK, but they are not as comfortable or suitable for long-distance running on hard surfaces as traditional running shoes.

Trail running shoes are designed for off-road terrain, with more cushioning and grip to protect your feet from rocks and roots. They are also lighter than traditional running shoes, making them more suitable for running on trails. However, they are not as good.

What are the best trail running shoes for 2023?

For the best trail running experience in 2023, go for the Hoka Speedgoat 5, Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3, Brooks Catamount 2, Altra Lone Peak 7, Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GTX, or Saucony Peregrine 13.

How can I care for my trail running shoes to prolong their lifespan?

To extend the life of your trail running shoes, clean them after every run, replace laces and insoles regularly, store them in a cool and dry place, and rotate between pairs for cushioning and support. This will help keep your shoes in good condition and ensure they last longer.