Best Trail Running Shoes 2020 | Top 10 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Trail Running Shoes 2020 | Top 10

Trail running shoes come with many variations in grip and weight. Here's what to look for and the best options out there

For trail running in the UK, it’s essential to have something on your feet that will help you feel confident enough to take that muddy corner quickly, to skip down a wet, rocky path, climb scree and jump logs. On UK terrain, many trail running shoes fall down. Often they’re not built for the incessant mud or the wet rock, the ice-smooth chalk or highland bog. There are a peculiar set of conditions across this wet northern island, and the shoes need to stand up, as do you. For this reason, we’ve compiled our selection of the best trail running shoes out there for 2020 along with a buyer’s guide to help you make the right shoe choice for your needs. So here goes…

Outsole Grip

The first thing to be looking out for on a trail shoe is the grip. In many cases, particularly in places where it’s muddy and wet, you’ll want as near to football boots as you can find. That being said, if you’re trail running on dry and dusty paths, overly aggressive lugs might be a hindrance.

Another issue can be when the lugs on an outsole are so deep and so close together that they hold onto mud and become clogged. This then affects the amount of traction you’ll get. The trail shoes in this list are made by reputable trail running brands and all of them will be designed to shed mud, though we’d argue that some, most notably Inov-8s options, will be better than others on slippery UK fells.

Construction

Some trail shoe outsoles look aggressive but are made of tough rubber, meaning they’re great on muddy paths, but they’ll be like ice skates on wet, steep roads or chalk.

When running, your feet and toes are constantly making tiny adjustments to help your balance. If there’s a hard sole, and one that doesn’t twist torsionally, then the effect of your toes on your balance could be quite negligible. Somehow, the result can be a feeling of instability, making you lose that much-needed confidence.

Compare, for example, your walking boots. Apart from being uncomfortable if you’d run in them, they’d also feel unstable. Good trail running shoes should allow you to feel the ground and have enough space to let your toes work. Some of the examples here will enable the foot to be very close to the ground meaning the foot can balance well, the negative is that you’ll feel more of the stones and roots.

What Does ‘Stack Height’ Mean On Trail Running Shoes?

It’s easy for trail running brands to throw ‘stack height’ and ‘drop’ numbers at you, without explanation of what they influence, so we’re here to put that straight.

Firstly, stack height represents the thickness of the midsole at both the toe and heel. With the modern-day polarisation between highly cushioned and barefoot running shoes, this number is becoming an increasingly important stat that’ll show how the shoe will likely behave. Put simply, shoes with high stack heights will be more cushioned, but less responsive due to little underfoot feel. Low drop shoes will be less cushioned, but will have greater stability and feel underfoot.

The amount of stack height you choose is of course all down to personal preference.

What Does ‘Drop’ Mean On Trail Running Shoes?

The difference in stack height between the heel and toe is what’s known as ‘the drop’. A 0mm drop, for example, would have the heel and the ball at the same level – as you would barefoot. In recent years, ‘barefoot running’, where people run in shoes with a very low stack height, has become extremely popular. The drop can be anything between 12mm and 0mm. Anything below 5mm would be considered a ‘low-drop’ trail running shoe.

“High drop shoes promote a heel strike… while low-mid drop promote a mid-forefoot strike”

The drop of the shoe affects how your foot strikes the ground whilst running. High drop (8 mm+) shoes promote a heel strike (due to the cushioning in the heel), while low-mid drop (- 8mm) promote a mid-forefoot strike.

It’s important to remember that stack height and drop are independent of each other. Depending on your preferred gait, you could find high stack height trail shoes that still have a zero or low heel-to-toe drop.

Do Trail Running Shoes Need To Be Waterproof?

Another factor to consider is whether you want a waterproof membrane. And the answer isn’t that obvious. The waterproof membrane is basically a bootie that sits in the shoe. Yes, it will keep water out, the flaw, however, is there’s one huge hole in the top where you put your feet and once water gets through it it stays in. Waterproof shoes will serve you will if you’re running on damp ground and aren’t likely to put your foot in anything deeper than your ankle. When that’s likely, you might be better off wearing something that will let water in and then let it straight out.

 

The 10 Best Trail Running Shoes of 2020

In this test of a surprisingly diverse range of off-road running footwear, we’ve addressed all of the key areas mentioned above and suggested where each pair will be best placed. They’re all great, but in different ways and we’d recommend them for different uses. There are three overriding questions to consider when you’re looking to buy a pair of trail shoes: 1) Where are you most likely to be using them? What kind of terrain is it? 2) Do they fit? Is there room for your toes to wriggle? Do they pull tight? And 3) What is the end use? Are they for mountain marathons or a soggy parkrun?

  • Arc’teryx Norvan SL GTX
  • Altra Timp 1.5
  • Dynafit Feline Up Pro
  • Merrell Choprock Trail
  • Vibram Five Fingers
  • Salomon XA Elevate Trail Shoe
  • Inov-8 X-Talon 230
  • Inov-8 Terraultra G260
  • Adidas Terrex Two Parley
  • Nike Zoom Pegasus 35 Trail
  • Icebug Acceleritas7 RB9X

 

Arc’teryx Norvan SL GTX

Price: £160
Weight: 235g

The all new Norvan SL GTX represents one of the lightest weight waterproof trail running shoes on the market, something you can feel the moment you pick them up.

Hold the Norvan SL to a light and you’ll almost be able to see through the upper. These translucent properties are thanks to the extremely lightweight mesh that’s been used. It not only keeps the weight low, but creates superb ventilation as well. Gore-Tex’s Invisible Fit Technology has been used behind this mesh upper in order to give it a waterproof, yet lightweight seal that removes the need to choose between either picking up a traditional bulky and sweaty waterproof shoe, or going for a lighter weight but non-waterproof minimalist option. They’ve aimed to get rid of that trade-off, that Catch 22, and the result is impressive.

Not only has weight been cut down from the upper materials and waterproof membrane, but Arc’teryx have also worked with Vibram to shave some weight off the sole unit, using their thin ‘LiteBase’ technology in the outsole.

LiteBase sees a reduction of around 40 – 50% in rubber thickness on the base of the outsole in comparison to standard Vibram soles. This, Vibram say, gives you a 25 – 30% decrease in the overall weight. It’s worth noting here that despite this reduction, the lugs, which use the common Megagrip compound, are completely unaffected by this technology, and therefore there’s no loss of traction and durability. Smart stuff.

Overall these are some technical and reliable shoes that will serve any runner well on damp trails.

Pros
Lightweight, grippy, high spec

Cons
Expensive

Full Specifications

3.5mm lugs / 7mm drop / 20mm heel, 13mm toe stack height / Vibram MegaGrip outsole / hydrophobic upper / Gore-tex Invisible Fit Technology.

Selected for the 2019/20 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 –Read our full Arc’teryx Norvan SL GTX review.

Get the latest price at:
arcteryx.com

 

Altra Timp 1.5

Price: £120
Weight: 312g

A popular shoe amongst long-distance hikers and runners right now, particularly over in the U.S. The Timp 1.5 is a follow on from the original Timp from Altra, one that’s more cushioned and slightly stickier in terms of grip. It sits between the ultra-cushioned Olympus and their low profile Lone Peak.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

There’s a larger toe box here compared to other running shoes, and this is deliberate. The idea is that it allows space for your feet when they start to swell as you begin to log the miles in. This wider design is also said to let your big toe sit straighter in the shoe, meaning that you’ll be able to fully apply its strength when ‘toeing-off’.

In keeping with Altra’s typical style, it’s a zero drop sole unit meaning that both the heel and toes are the same distance from the ground. This makes their shoes suited to those who prefer a more natural feel when running. Some benefits to a zero drop when compared to ramped shoes, are reduced impact on the knees and less strain on the lower back. It’s a case of each to their own with this kind of thing, but still, if you struggle with injury in those areas and haven’t tried zero drop shoes yet, particularly those by Altra, they’re worth considering.

Pros
Cater well for the long distance niche

Cons
The blunt toe and loose fit means less precision

 

Full Specifications

5 mm Contour Footbed / FootShape toe box / 29 mm stack height heel to toe / EVA midsole / DuraTread outsole.

Selected for the 2019/20 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 –  read our full Altra Timp 1.5 review.

Get the latest price at:
altrarunning.eu

Dynafit Feline Up Pro

Price: £160
Weight: 230g

This aggressively-soled, yet lightweight trail running shoe has been designed to get you up to the summit as fast as your body and lungs will allow.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

The crucial feature is the aggressive outsole. First you have the sticky rubber compound; a Vibram Megagrip optimised to give as much wet and dry off-road traction as possible. Then you have the deep, arrow-shaped lugs to help claw you up the mountainside, whilst planting you securely on the ground for the downhill. These have also been cleverly designed so that mud will shed rather than clinging on and clogging things up.

The shoe weight overall is 230g (per half pair) and as expected with a shoe of this weight, you’re getting a minimal drop (4mm) to give you that feet-to-ground feeling, but there’s still plenty of protection from roots and rocks thanks to a Carbon Shield in the midsole.

Finally, the upper features a lightweight synthetic mesh which is all pulled together by a quick lacing system which has a sort-of mini gaiter covering it to keep any unwanted dirt and rocks out. To stop the excess lacing from flapping about, all you need to do is tuck it into a little stretchy pocket at the top of the tongue.

Pros
Grippy, lightweight, precise, protective

Cons
Expensive

Full Specifications

Vibram Megagrip outsole / Vibram Lite Base reduces weight / 4 mm drop / lightweight, protective upper / quick lacing system with stretch fabric lace cover to stash shoelaces.

Selected for the 2019/20 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 –  Read our full Dynafit Feline Up Pro review.

Get the latest price at:
webtogs.com

 

Merrell Choprock Trail

Price: £100
Weight: 381g

This is a trail running (and hiking) shoe designed for those paths that are going to take you across or alongside a few rivers – basically when wet feet are going to be inevitable. That means what you can expect from these is ultra fast drainage and ultra grip along slippery shores.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

The upper is made from a mix of gauze-like mesh, webbing, and synthetics with a number of little channels through the insole and base to drain away water. It’s carefully enough designed to be able to prevent most debris from getting in, while to stop stuff entering through that big old hole in the top (where your foot goes in) there’s an elasticated cuff that provides a secure, sock-like wrap.

As well as needing good drainage when you’re running or hiking through water, you’re also going to need protection, because the risk of slipping on wet rocks or stubbing your toe on them is obviously very high. Fortunately, the Choprock has you covered there thanks to its oversized toe bumper plus its grippy sole with a Vibram Megagrip compound and 5mm multi-directional lugs.

Pros
Cater for a niche, transfer well to hot weather hiking

Cons
Heavy, a bit niche for UK use.

Full Specifications

Webbing loops for secure fit / Hyperlock TPU heel counter for security / Hydramorph midsole channels and ports for water evacuation and air ventilation / compression molded EVA midsole / Vibram Megagrip / 5mm lugs.

Selected for the 2019/20 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 –  read our full Merrell Choprock Trail review.

Get the latest price at:
merrell.com

 

Vibram Five Fingers

Price: £70
Weight: 136g

Yes, OK, we get it. These shoes are definitely a bit marmite – you either love them, or hate them. While they might look a bit odd, there is a deliberate thought process to them. They’re designed for people who want a more natural run, offering a zero drop, tiny stack height of just 5mm, low cushioning and of course that glove-like fit, all of which combine to give your feet a sensory perception and dexterity akin to running barefoot with the added bonus of skin protection and grip.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

Whilst the mid-foot landing running technique may not be for everyone, and it’ll take some time to adapt to, it’s frequently praised by people for improving their running gait, creating a more efficient stride that lowers the impact through the knees and heels compared to that of heavily-cushioned running shoes.

OM editor Will counts himself as a fan. “I’ve walked in them, worked in them, and run on roads and trails in them,” he says in his review on our site. “I even took them on holiday with me for a week as my only pair of shoes. And I’ve really, really enjoyed wearing them.”

“I know they look strange, and they’ve certainly brought a lot of amusement to my friends and colleagues, but running in these feels absolutely brilliant. On trails, that sensory perception adds a whole new dimension, you get such a feel and connection with the ground below you, and generally feel much more agile and nimble.”

Pros
Innovative, good for barefoot runners, comfortable

Cons
Take getting used to, difficult to get on, require specific socks.

Full Specifications

3.7 mm rubber outsole / 2 mm Foam insole / 50:50 wool-synthetic upper.

Selected for the 2019/20 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – read our full Vibram Five fingers review.

Get the latest price at:
webtogs.com

 

Salomon XA Elevate GTX Trail Shoe

Price: £69
Weight: 300g

Salomon have a proven history of creating some of the finest trail-running shoes out there – just look at the feet of the majority of the lineup during a trail race and you’ll notice a high proportion of them will have that Salomon logo. With these, the XA Elevate, they haven’t dropped the ball.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

Featuring a specially-designed rubber compound on the outsole called Wet Traction Contagrip (a proprietary tech from Salomon), the men’s and women’s XA Elevate, is made for tackling steep trails that involve not just mud but also wet and slippery rocks.

The 5mm trapezoidal lugs help dig and grip into damp ground and are able to shed sticky dirt easily, while there’s a 26mm-thick heel (and a 8mm drop from the heel to toe altogether) meaning there’s a good bit of protection underfoot.

In the midsole there is in fact a double-density compressed EVA foam which has a slight stiffness to it but it’ll still provide enough shock absorption to protect your joints on solid ground. A side reinforcement and mid plate in the chassis as well not only extends the life of the shoe but protects from rocks and roots.

Top that off with Gore-Tex waterproof protection and you’ve got a very decent option for running on light trails that have a bit of moisture on them.

Pros
Grippy, sturdy, high cushioning, good value

Cons
Heel might be too thick for some.

Full Specifications

8mm drop / 17mm midsole / 25mm heel / QuickLace lacing system.

Selected for the 2018/19 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – read our full Salomon XA Elevate review.

Get the latest price at:
salomon.com

 

Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Price: £115
Weight: 230g

This trail running shoe from Cumbria fell running specialists Inov-8 features their Sticky Grip rubber on the outsole which is designed to handle anything from mud to those nasty black and slimy rocks which, in a bad pair of shoes, can send you flying. There are also toothy 8mm studs for good bite on steep ascents and descents as well.

The midsole is of a similarly high standard, with upgraded comfort through the Powerflow+ foam which adds a good deal of shock absorption on hard trails. It also supposedly increases the energy return when compared to most other midsoles.

It’s worth noting that these come with Inov-8’s new width rating of 1 (1 being the tightest, 5 the widest), so the fit is snug and very precise.

Pros
Grippy, built specifically for UK mountains, good value

Cons
Fit might be too narrow for some.

Full Specifications

6mm drop / 6mm footbed / 8mm lug depth / PowerFlow+ midsole / 13mm heel – 7mm forefoot.

Selected for the 2018/19 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – read our full Inov-8 X-Talon 230 review.

Get the latest price at:
webtogs.com

 

Inov-8 Terraultra G 260

Price: £140
Weight: 309g

Dubbed the world’s toughest running shoe, the Terraultra G 260 is the first of inov-8’s new G-series of shoes using graphene-enhanced rubber that’s claimed to be 50% stronger, more durable and more elastic than run-of-the-mill rubber.

Minimalist internal padding makes them fast drying without detracting from comfort, a roomy forefoot allows for feet swollen by mega-distances, but these still feel nimble and plant with great trail feel.

Photo: Jon Doran
Photo: Jon Doran

Our tester Jon Doran found they offered a Velcro-like grip on hard to medium-soft surfaces and uncanny tenacity on wet rock in particular. “The first point I’d make is that the Terraultra is designed for long trail runs, very long trail runs over challenging terrain,” says Jon in his on-site review for us. “That doesn’t mean you can’t use it for shorter outings, but that’s not really its purpose in life and it has a number of features designed to work best when you’re churning out big miles.”

Pros
Long lasting grip, innovative, made specifically for UK mountains

Cons
Maybe a lack of shock absorption for some, not great on road sections.

Full Specifications

0mm drop / 6mm footbed / 4mm lug depth / ExertoFlow midsole / 9mm heel / 9mm forefoot / graphene grip.

Read our full Inov-8 Terraultra G 260.

Get the latest price at:
webtogs.com

 

Adidas Terrex TWO Parley

Price: £130
Weight: 300g

This is the result of Adidas’ collaboration with Parley for the Oceans. Parley, in case you’re not familiar with them, pull millions of tonnes of plastic from the oceans every year, recycle it, then hand it over to Adidas to turn that recycled material into things like jackets, t-shirts and shoes – shoes like these.

Aside from the environmental efforts on show here, the Parley Two has a lightweight and very comfortable design, thanks to a foot-hugging knitted upper, a wide toe-box and plenty of underfoot cushioning that incorporates an EVA midsole. The close, sock-like fit takes a little getting used to, but means that debris stays out of the shoe when running light trails. The sole also has a pronounced rocker shape for a smoother ride, and makes use of Continental rubber – the same stuff found in performance car tyres – for improved grip, even in wet conditions.

The lugs aren’t aggressive enough for the gnarliest trails, and the lightweight uppers are supremely breathable but lack any toe protection, so we’d stick to less technical terrain in these shoes. For running light trails, however, as well as for general everyday use, they excel, and gain a firm thumbs-up for their eco-friendly credentials too.

Pros
Eco-friendly, comfortable fit.

Cons
Lack of support when contouring

Full Specifications

Sizes 6 to 13.5 / Gore-Tex lined / BOOST midsole / Continental rubber outsole / sock-like construction.

Selected for the Outdoors Magic Green Gear Guide – read our full Adidas Terrex TWO Parley review.

Get the latest price at:
adidas.co.uk

 

Nike Pegasus Trail

Price: £115
Weight: 290g

First brought to the road running world in 1983, the Nike Pegasus has been a mainstay within the running community; a go-to training shoe to suit everyone from athletes, to beginners. Hell, Mo Farah even has his own version. What we have here is a version that’s designed specifically for trail running.

The most important iteration of the Pegasus, the one that was worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he broke the marathon world record, featured ‘Zoom’ foam in the midsole, and that tech is featured here in this model, the Zoom Pegasus Trail as well.

You could call this new trail shoe the road car that just got converted for rally driving. There are aggressive lugs and a sticky rubber on the outsole, the stance is wider and again, there’s that Zoom suspension in the midsole. They also have a fairly steep drop of 10mm.

OM staff writer Jordan, who’s been testing them out over the past year said: “These are going to be taking the place as my trail-training shoes over long distances. There are of course lower drop, lighter weight shoes out there (Nike produce the minimal 4mm drop Terra Kiger Trail which looks ideal for this category) that would be suited towards going for that new PB, but in terms of long-distance comfort, the Nike Zoom Pegasus Trail are going to be pretty hard to beat.”

Pros
Grippy, high shock absorption, long distance comfort, handle road sections well

Cons
Question marks over long term durability of the outsole.

Full Specifications

10mm drop / 3mm opposing lugs / medium forefoot, medium heel, medium toe box / neutral pronation / high arch / Zoom air units in the heel / mesh upper / rubber rand on toe.

Read our full Nike Pegasus Trail review.

Get the latest price at:
nike.com

Icebug Acceleritas7 RB9X

Price: £130
Weight: 190g

What we have here is a sustainably-made shoe from one of the world’s most eco-friendly footwear brands. In fact, Icebug were the first shoemakers to become climate-positive. That means they haven’t just offset their total carbon emissions, they’ve actually overcompensated.

 

The shoes themselves are extremely lightweight, but the uppers are durable enough to offer decent levels of protection on technical terrain. They’re not waterproof, but water pickup is minimal and drainage is excellent, so they don’t get soggy. That makes them a great option not just for trail running, but also for swimruns and adventure racing. The heel cup is soft and comfortable in order to reduce pressure on the Achilles tendon. The midsole flexes well and underfoot feel is good thanks to the low profile sole. The aggressive outsole doesn’t clog and grips well in the wet or the dry.

The shoes are narrow fitting – similar to Inov8’s precision fit – so we’d recommend sizing up one full size from your standard street shoe. Other than that, there is little to fault.

Pros
Grippy, lightweight, eco-friendly, innovative, good drainage

Cons
Slightly garish colourways, fit maybe too narrow for some.

Full Specifications

4mm drop / narrow fit / removable molded EVA insole / recycled PET mesh liner / EVA midsole with ESS Rock Shield / TPU mudguard / bluesign approved.

Featured in our Green Gear Guide 2019 – Read our full Icebug Acceleritas7 review.

Get the latest price at:
icebug.com


More Trail Running Shoes Our Experts Rate

La Sportiva Akasha Mountain Running

Price: £125
Weight: 374g

La Sportiva know the mountains. For 91 years, this brand has lived and breathed them. Their boots have powered the world’s greatest mountaineers, sped ski mountaineers off-piste and scaled some of the world’s hardest rock faces. The Mountain Running range was a natural progression.

The Akasha is a pair of shoes designed for long distances and is La Sportiva’s most heavily cushioned option. Which says more about the rest of their trail range; there is a healthy amount of spring underfoot but by no means the most on this test. Where it is most noticeable is at the ball of the foot – so for those who run more on the front (or toe-to heel) these would be ideal. The heel to toe drop is 6mm.

We tested these over a range of distances and found them extremely comfortable. There’s a lovely roll to them. The toe box is pretty broad, which we’ve found gives plenty of space for your feet to swell over the course of big runs. They also feel positive on rough ground. As we expected, they were strong on rock and also chalk – no mean feat – but they’re not as aggressive on mud as some of the shoes featured here.

They’re not waterproof, but the uppers offer a fair amount of general resistance against the wet. We’d say they’re more built for breathability. They seem durable too thanks to their PU exoskeleton.

These are ideally suited to long trails in the mountains and sections of harder paths rather than slippery sprints around the woods.

Pros
Well built, comfortable and excellent for rocky runs.

Cons
Not enough grip for wet forest trails.

Full Specifications

Sizes 36-47.5 including half sizes / 6mm drop / breathable mesh upper and ‘PU leather’ at rear / EVA midsole / FriXion XT dual density sole.

Get the latest price at:
lasportiva.com

Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX

Price: £140
Weight: 330g

Salomon makes some of our favourite trail running shoes. This is a company that genuinely understands off-road running. They’re pioneers of shoes and equipment expressly designed for mountain running and races; for moving quickly across rough terrain securely and safely. Notably, the company also make shoes that can stand up to wet British soil.

Among the extensive range are shoes with soles that attack the mud more than most manufacturers (we’d rank Inov-8 alongside). The sole on the Speedcross 4 is the most aggressive in this test. The Speedcross GTX is, of course, Gore-Tex lined, so they’re waterproof, but this means that if water enters in the hole you put your feet in, it can’t escape. They also run quite warm – ones for winter running.

We found too they come out very small – consider at least a half size up, maybe a full size. But when these fit, there are few better shoes if you want a pair with Gore-Tex. The roll of the shoe especially is comfortable over long distances, and when we talk about confidence in trail running shoes, these have it in abundance. Salomon has options that fit every criterion, including those with a non-waterproof membrane.

Pros
Amazing, confidence boosting grip. Well built.

Cons
Gore-Tex lining isn’t for everyone. The run warm.

Full Specifications

Sizes 7-13.5 / 10mm drop / synthetic upper / EVA midsole.

Get the latest price at:
salomon.com

Dynafit Trailbreaker

Price: £130
Weight: 336g

Dynafit started off life in Austria as a ski boot manufacturer in the 1950s and is now part of Italian Alpine brand Salewa. They’ve been heavily involved in alpine running for a decade, perfecting shoes for the sport. The alpine running range is broken down into three categories: Vertical for short steep mountain runs, Alpine for classic trail runs, and Ultra for long distances.

These Trailbreaker shoes are in the Alpine category, an all-round trail shoe for medium distances. It means they don’t have quite as much shock absorption as the Ultra range and indeed, I found them reasonably stiff, with little in the way of cushioning. It’s not a criticism at all; there is a good connection with the ground.

The Trailbreaker is initially notable for the low weight at just 300g a pair (size 11). The sole unit is also definitely Alpine, we found it stable on rock, which is what they’re primarily designed for, but the grip wasn’t that good on wet forest trails. There’s a 10mm drop. The uppers are a breathable mesh, and the lacing is standard but pulls in for an exceptional fit. They come out small, so try at least a half size up. An option if you’re running to the top of a mountain, mainly on rock, and for that alpine race you’ve been considering!

Pros
A solidly built pair of shoes that will last.

Cons
Best for rock and mountain routes rather than wet trails.

Full Specifications

Sizes 6-13 / 10mm drop / EVA midsole / Alpine Air Mesh upper / Ortholite footbed.

Get the latest price at:
webtogs.com

Adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX

Price: £140
Weight: 370g

The Terrex Agravic is part of the outdoor and trail running range from Adidas, and they’re pretty exciting. There’s one key point that sets them apart; they are genuinely effective waterproof trail shoes. Waterproof lined shoes have one apparent problem: no matter how waterproof they are, there’s a big hole in the top. When they keep water out, they’re great, but if water enters the top, it stays there. Many fell runners would much rather have slightly wet feet in shoes that let most of the water out than to have their feet sat in a puddle of water. The designers of the adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX have solved this problem by adding a tight, sock-like collar to the shoe that prevents rain from getting in.

We’ve worn these shoes for hours on very wet days and returned with dry feet. In other waterproof-lined shoes, we’ve run short distances in heavy dew and poured water out. All the talk of this advantage shouldn’t distract from the fact that they are also exceptionally comfortable. They benefit from the proprietary BOOST midsole that offers a great rebound – a technology adidas claim improves efficiency. They’re not the bounciest, however, but we had no problems over half-marathon test distances. There’s a pleasingly aggressive sole, fine for mud, wet grass and wet rock. These are perfect for hour-long training sessions in soggy situations.

Pros
A fantastic solution to waterproof lining in shoes that really works.

Cons
Quite pricey.

Full Specifications

Sizes 6 to 13.5 / Gore-Tex lined / BOOST midsole / Continental rubber outsole / sock-like construction.

Get the latest price at:
adidas.co.uk

Inov-8 X-Talon 260

Price: £135
Weight: 310g

What a pair of shoes. Wow. we’ll be honest: they’re not much to look at out of the box. And putting them on, they felt a little old school. The bend between the toes and the foot bundled up a bit on our pair. But then we started running, and fell in love with them – well, as much as you can with a pair of shoes.

Why? Firstly, they move brilliantly with the intricate movements of the foot. Every tiny adjustment your toes make for balance were reflected in the flexible soles. What this means is a very stable, decisive feeling run. Under these flexible midsoles are aggressive outsoles. The sparse 8mm lugs (that’s a lot) grip the mud, chalk, rock and, seemingly, anything. It’s an impressive material, but it’s the combination of the flexibility and rubber that add up to a great run on British terrain which is, of course, precisely what they are designed for.

The toe box is very wide, meaning they are comfortable over very long distances even when the feet swell. A minor niggle is that the lacing could be more positive – the size is accurate but on the generous side.

Pros
A spectacular pair of trail/fell running shoes with amazing grip.

Cons
Nothing.

Full Specifications

Sizes 6-14 / 8mm drop / stick grip outsole / nylon upper with DWR treatment.

Get the latest price at:
webtogs.com

VivoBarefoot Primus Trail FG

Price: £120
Weight: 277g

The barefoot movement, and it is a movement, has become pervasive in the world of running. The basic tenet of barefoot running (while actually wearing shoes) is that they move as much like your feet as possible. As we’ve mentioned, your feet make constant tiny adjustments while running, especially on the trail. The more those movements come through the shoes, the more stable you’ll feel. As VivoBarefoot write: “Our ultra-thin sole not only protects you but lets thousands of your nerve endings do their job.”

You’ll find the shoes with a full toe box, a thin sole and an extremely flexible construction (you can roll them up). They’re not for everyone though: while some people swear by them, others find the lack of cushioning and no drop (the ball and heel of the foot are at the same level) too much for the legs. You can even remove the 3mm insole for more feeling of the ground. Either way, you’ll generally need some time to get used to them.

So what of the Primus FG? The mesh is a recycled PET mesh and is breathable – they feel great running. There’s a bit of water resistance, but they’re also designed to drain water quickly. And the lacing, with a toggle, is quick and secure. The sole has 3mm lugs, not the most aggressive here, but there’s enough flex to the sole to still give you confidence on wet trails. It should also be said they are very light at 554g a pair (size 10). If you like the barefoot style, you can’t go wrong — an impressive shoe.

Pros
Very lightweight, good grip, move well with the feet,

Cons
They can take some getting used to.

Full Specifications

Sizes 6-14 / 0mm drop / breathable recycled mesh upper / 3mm lugs on rubber outsole.

Get the latest price at:
vivobarefoot.com

Columbia Caldorado III Shoe

Price: £115
Weight: 342g

Columbia’s Caldorado III look, in all honesty, like shoes we had as kids. The spongy mesh uppers, in particular, suggest Ocean Pacific T-shirts and Commodore Amiga computers. Under the hood, however, they are anything but.

The uppers alone are seamless, abrasion resistant and flexible. Technology flows through the shoe as in much of Columbia’s garments. Underfoot, there’s a good level of cushioning, both at the heel and forefoot, allowing for long runs, thanks to the FluidFoam midsole. This also makes for a really smooth, flowing run.

Against the ground there’s an outsole that works well on rock and hard ground – its flexibility helps with the grip – but the lug pattern is quite shallow, so if you’re often running up muddy forest trails then try something with lugs that are more separated.

The Caldorado III is an exceptionally comfortable shoe, one that will see you through miles and miles of trail, even as far as the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (UTMB), the race that inspired Columbia’s Montrail collection. We even know someone running the UTMB in these shoes… they’ll be just fine.

Pros
Extremely comfortable, good cushioning.

Cons
Designed for hard, rocky Alpine paths, not muddy trails.

Full Specifications

Sizes 6-14 / 8mm drop / abrasion resistant upper / rubber outsole.

Get the latest price at:
webtogs.com

Hoka One One Torrent

Price: £100
Weight: 254g

Hoka One One emerged as an antidote to the barefoot movement. Instead of the minimalist soles, Hoka One One threw loads of cushioning under the foot, and the designs served to enhance that appearance.

Many have found Hoka’s previous shoes excellent for when you’re pounding the road or pavement for hours, but in my opinion, they’ve lacked the grip required for trail running, and the thick soles can cause your ankles to bend more than lower profile shoes when traversing steep slopes. The good news is that with this new shoe, the Torrent, they’ve dialled back the cushioning and height and placed an aggressive sole on it. Problem solved.

The resulting shoe is a wonder. They are definitely spongy underfoot, but not to the extent where you lose your ‘feel’ with the trail. The other Hoka One One shoes we’ve tried have been impressively light, and these are no different.

We found them responsive, comfortable over long distances and on very rough terrain. Also, if there are some hard trails or roads on your run, you’d benefit from these shoes.

Pros
Very comfortable, superb for long distances. Lightweight.

Cons
Not ones if you prefer more connection with the ground.

Full Specification

Sizes 40-50 / 5mm heel – 5mm toe / 18mm under forefoot – 23mm under heel / mesh upper / PROFLY midsole / high arch / neutral pronation.

Get the latest price at:
hokaoneone.eu

 

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