Best Trail Running Shoes Reviewed 2019 | Top 8 - Outdoors Magic

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Trail and Scramble Shoes

Best Trail Running Shoes Reviewed 2019 | Top 8

Options from La Sportiva, Salomon, Inov-8 and more

Trail running shoes are all about confidence. Confidence to take that muddy corner quickly, confidence to skip down a wet, rocky path, climb scree, 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.

So, that’s the first thing to be looking out for on a trail shoe: fantastic grip. Basically, as near to football boots you can find the better! That means well-spaced deep lugs. But to overcomplicate matters, the material is also significant.

Some trail shoes look aggressive but are quite hard, meaning they’re great on muddy paths, but they’ll be like ice skates on wet, steep roads or chalk. When running, your foot and toes are constantly making tiny adjustments to help you 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.

Connected with this is the drop, this is the difference between the height of your foot at the heel and that at the ball. There has been a movement over recent years, with the ‘barefoot’ running movement, to minimise this. A 0mm drop, for example, would have the heel and the ball at the same level – as you would barefoot. The drop can be anything between 12mm and 0mm. Anything below 5mm would be considered a ‘low-drop’ shoe.

Trail Running Shoes: Waterproof or Not?

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. But, and it’s a big but, once the water is in, it stays in. I’ve poured water out of Gore-Tex running shoes simply when there’s been a lot of dew on the ground. Perhaps, it’s better that they let water in, but also out. That said, the adidas shoes on test here have a neat and simple solution that help.

In short, there are three overriding questions to consider: 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?

In this test of a surprisingly diverse rage, we’ve addressed these key areas and suggested where they are best placed. They’re all great, but in different ways and we’d recommend them for different uses.

The Best Trail Running Shoes of 2019

If you want to jump straight to a specific product review in this round-up just click the names in this list…

Best Of The Bunch


La Sportiva Akasha Mountain Running

Price: £125
Weight: 748g (size 11)

La Sportiva knows 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.

I’ve tested these on distances over 15 miles and found them extremely comfortable. There’s a lovely roll to them. The toe box is pretty broad, which I’ve found gives plenty of space for my feet to swell over the course of big runs. They also feel positive on rough ground. As I expected, they were strong on rock and also chalk – no mean feat – but they’re not as aggressive on mud as the Inov-8 pair that are included in this round-up.

They’re not waterproof, but the uppers offer a fair amount of general resistance against the wet. I’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

lasportiva.com


Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX

Price: £140

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.

I 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

salomon.com

 


Dynafit Trailbreaker

Price: £130
Weight: 672g (size 11)

Dynafit is a brand relatively new to us at Outdoors Magic. The company started off life in Austria as a ski boot manufacturer in the 1950s and is now part of Italian Alpine brand Salewa. The company has 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, I 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

dynafit.com


Adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX

Price: £140
Weight: 720g (size 11)

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.

I’ve worn these shoes for hours on very wet days and returned with dry feet. In other waterproof-lined shoes, I’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.

adidas.co.uk


Inov-8 X-Talon 260 (Best in Test)

Price: £135
Weight: 620g (size 11)

What a pair of shoes. Wow. I’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 my shoes. But then I 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. Even so, these are some of the best you can get for UK landscapes. I like them a lot, can you tell? In terms of confidence; the X-Talon has it in bundles.

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

inov-8.com


VivoBarefoot Primus Trail FG

Price: £120
Weight: 554g (size 10)

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 I’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

vivobarefoot.com


Columbia Caldorado III Shoe

Price: £115
Weight: 684g (size 11)

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

columbiasportswear.co.uk


Hoka One One Torrent

Price: £100
Weight: 508g (pair, size 42/9)

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.

I 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. I like the Torrent a lot.

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 drop / mesh upper / PROFLY midsole /

 

hokaoneone.eu

 

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