Best Trail Running Shoes Of 2023 - Outdoors Magic

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Trail and Scramble Shoes

Best Trail Running Shoes Of 2023

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

For trail running, particularly in the mountains, 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. There are a lot of different options out there, however, and finding the right pair that can handle such a variety of conditions can be quite tricky. For this reason, we’ve compiled our selection of the best trail running shoes out there for 2023 along with a buyer’s guide to help you make the right shoe choice for your needs.

The Best Trail Running Shoes of 2023

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: what terrain will you be using them for? What kind of distances will you be running in them? What kind of feel do you like to get from a shoe? In this guide, we’ll help to pin point where each pair sits in regards to each of these criteria – and for more information on why that stuff is important, just jump right down to the bottom of the page or check out our in-depth guide on how to choose trail running shoes.

  • Scott Kinabalu 2 – Best Trail Running Shoe Tested
  • Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3
  • La Sportiva Cyklon With Boa Fit System
  • Dynafit Feline Up Pro
  • CimAlp Drop Control
  • Merrell MTL Long Sky 2
  • New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V6
  • Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra
  • La Sportiva Karacal
  • ON Cloudvista
  • Vibram Five Fingers
  • Saucony 12
  • Columbia Montrail Trinity AG

How We Tested Them

With the help of our Test Team, we’ve made sure all of the trail running shoes in this round up have been properly tested out in the environments they were made for. We haven’t just taken these for quick runs around the local dog walking field. No, we’ve made sure they’ve been used in real mountain environments – whether that’s through the bogs of Rannoch Moor in the Scottish Highlands, on hard-packed trails over high fells in the Lake District or, in the case of our editor Will, while setting FKTs on multi-day fastpacking adventures.


BEST BUY: Scott Kinabalu 2

The Kinabalu 2s during our test trip in the Highlands. Photo: Michael Drummond

Price: £130
Weight: 290g
Best for: Rocky trails, medium to long distances
Key attributes: Sturdy and protective, grippy, fast feeling
Performance: 10/10
Value: 9/10

Scott’s Kinabalu 2 was a standout product in our Outdoor 100 product guide this year, with OM editor Will even going so far as saying it’s “the best trail shoe I’ve ever run in.” How about that then.

It’s a shoe that’s built for distance, with a good cushioning and a nice rocker to create a bit of forward propulsion on the trail. Looking at the midsole, Scott has made use of their own in-house Kinetic Foam to produce a material that’s capable of springing you out of every turn – so much so that Scott claims that this foam midsole is able to return 14% more energy (compared to standard EVA) on every stride.

Then there’s the grip. The outsole features an interesting multi-layered lug design – one that doesn’t look too dissimilar to that of an all weather tyre found on that of a 4X4. While the lugs give you bite on soft stuff, you’ll also get a good stick on harder, smoother surfaces too – stuff like bouldery slabs and pavements.

“I’ve done a lot of trail running and hiking in these over the last three months and they’ve been excellent,” said our editor Will. “I like that the sole is stiff enough to block out sharp roots but there’s still a proprioception and responsiveness. I like the slight rock they have which makes them feel really fast. I like their breathability, I like their protection and I like the grippiness they provide. And, well, they look pretty good too I reckon.”

Full Specifications

Available in men’s and women’s versions / half sizes available / mesh/thermoplastic polyurethanes upper / 29mm heel and 21mm toe / dual density Kinetic Foam midsole / Ortholite ECO X-40 footbed / form-fitting tongue (locking system).

Selected for our Outdoor 100 2022/23 – Read our full Scott Kinabalu 2 review.



Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3

Price: £150
Weight: 265g
Best for: Long training runs, orienteering races
Key attributes: Breathable, lightweight, good traction
Performance: 9/10
Value: 7.5/10

This is a trail shoe built for long runs, the kind of thing that’s designed for those mountain excursions where you’re taking on a mix of sustained climbs and long, loping descents, over all kinds of terrain and over the course of a few hours as well. It’s a good option for orienteering challenges or longer fell races.

OM editor Will testing out their grip on wet rock on the shores of Airsaig. Photos: Michael Drummond

Starting with the upper, the Norvan LD 3 features lightweight and breathable fabrics that make use of a combination of mesh and toughened plastic to provide a blend of comfort and support. The inside of the upper has been designed as a two-layer system, where a second internal layer helps to reduce any friction that could, potentially, lead to day-ruining blisters when you find yourself miles into a route.

The midsole provides just the right amount of cushioning thanks to Arc’teryx’s collaboration with midsole manufacturers Dow. They’ve essentially produced an EVA midsole that’s been designed to cushion the foot from repeated stresses while providing a quick and snappy response following a foot strike.

Underfoot, the outsole uses Vibram’s new Litebase technology, which cuts weight without affecting shock absorption or grip. The lugs have a depth of 4mm which is about average for a trail shoe. They give good grip on muddy tracks and gravel as well as decent ability on wet rock.

Full Specifications

4mm lugs / 6mm drop / Vibram LiteBase outsole / InFuse® midsole / Vibram® Megagrip outsole / dual-layer internal construction / Ariaprene® foam tongue / internal foot wrap / Anti-Fatigue Insert.

Selected for the 2022/23 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 –Read our full Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3 review.



La Sportiva Cyklon With Boa Fit System

Price: £140
Weight: 315g
Best for: Medium-distance mountain running, summer hiking
Key attributes: Well-cushioned, good traction, zero drop
Performance: 8/10
Value: 8/10

The Cyklon shoe is the result of an exclusive collaboration between La Sportiva and Boa who make an extremely innovative precision fit system that’s an alternative to lacing. The two brands have both worked together here to develop something called a Dynamic Cage which creates a super precise, micro adjustable fit.

This ‘cage’ is essentially three individual panels throughout the shoe’s upper (two on the inside and one on the outside) and they link up with the Boa Fit System. When you press down on the Boa cog and twist it, this pulls in those three panels, directing lace tension to four specific areas around the midfoot. It creates a completely even tension right the way around your foot to make for a very stable ride.

Our tester using the Cyklons around the base of Ben Nevis. Photos: Michael Drummond.

Alongside the Boa Fit System and that wraparound tongue, the upper features a breathable mesh right throughout it which is stiffened and protected on its flanks and at the toe by a TPU laminate. Around the ankle, there’s an elasticated fabric that serves like a gaiter, blocking out any unwanted gravel, dirt and debris.

There’s also 6.5mm lugs, La Sportiva’s proprietary rubber compound FriXion, an EVA foam midsole with TPU lateral inserts under the heel, and a stack height of 7mm. Grippy on pretty much everything – there’s a lot to like here.

Full Specifications

Cable and cog-type Boa Fit ‘lacing’ system / wraparound tongue / upper with breathable mesh and TPU laminate / elasticated fabric at ankle / true-to-size / 6.5mm lugs / hard-wearing FriXion rubber compound / EVA foam midsole with TPU inserts under heel / no rockplate across sole / 26.5 mm heel height / 19.5mm front height / 7mm stack height.

Selected for the 2019/20 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full La Sportiva Cyklon With Boa Fit System review.



Dynafit Feline Up Pro

Price: £136
Weight: 230g
Best for: Muddy trails, variable conditions
Key attributes: Lightweight, precise, grippy

Performance: 9/10
Value: 7.5/10

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.

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.



CimAlp 864 Drop Control

Price: £110
Weight: 325g
Best for: Injury-prone runners and hikers
Key attributes: Sturdy, protective, innovative

Performance: 7/10
Value: 8/10

The clever 864 Drop Control shoe from CimAlp is a progressive, forward-thinking, trail running product that’s all about improving performance and preventing injuries. Coming with three pairs of insoles (8mm, 6mm, 4mm), the 864 Drop Control will help you to evolve your technique and run with a more natural stride. How? Well, the three insoles allow runners to gradually reduce the height of the heel (aka the drop), and work from a heel strike towards landing midfoot. Landing midfoot improves natural damping, and encourages a more efficient, natural, stride, in the long term potentially minimising the risk of stress injuries.

The shoe's stabilising heel cup will help to keep you steady. Photo: Mike Brindley
The progressive soles will help you improve your technique. Photo: Mike Brindley

If you’re new to trail running, this forensic and geeky approach to your technique might set alarm bells ringing. After all, you just want to run, right? The great thing about this shoe though is that it can fix bad habits before they’ve set, and also be of great use to people wanting to evolve and improve how they move through the hills and mountains.

Full Specifications

Vibram Megagrip outsole / Heel cup / stone guard / mesh uppers / seamless inner / Lycra tongue with storage for laces.

Selected for the 2020/21 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full CimAlp 864 Drop Control trail shoe review.



Merrell MTL Long Sky 2

Price: £115
Weight: 260g
Best for: Mountain running, variable terrain
Key attributes: Lightweight, grippy, precise
Performance: 9/10
Value: 7.5/10

These technical mountain runners are possibly the best showing from Merrell’s recent hot streak in the trail running world. It seems that the team at MTL (Merrell Test Lab) have taken the very best features from the original Long Sky and the well-loved Moab Flight, and combined them to create Long Sky 2.

They’re impressively robust despite being super lightweight, thanks in no small part to the overhauled midsole construction. The new Float Pro Foam is light and bouncy on the foot, yet tough on technical terrain. This pairs excellently with the all-condition Vibram Megagrip outsole which has demonstrated powerful grip in wet and even icy conditions.

The five-millimeter chevron lugs are super versatile; throw in the durable rock plate and guide holes for studs, and you’ve got runners ready for unpredictable, extreme environments. TPU overlays are spread throughout the shoe, offering great support and adding some light reinforcement and structure to the breathable mesh upper.

The toebox is fairly slim, but this is an intentional move from Merrell to ensure a secure and precise fit. Your feet are also locked in through the midfoot and heel, and the integrated liner and tongue unit make the shoe extremely easy to make quick, subtle maneuvers with. Precision is the aim of the game here, from the form-fit upper to the low stack and responsive foam, everything about the MTL Long Sky 2 is perfect for staying in touch with technical terrain.

Full Specifications

4mm drop / 23.5mm heal / 19.5mm forefoot / 5mm lugs / Vibram Megagrip Outsole / EVA foam insole / Mesh and TPU upper / 100% recycled laces / Gaiter D-Ring / Internal bootie for locked-in fit / 100% recycled TPU reinforcements



New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V6

Price: £110
Weight: 324g
Best for: Long miles on defined, dusty, gravel trails
Key attributes: Comfortable, nicely padded underfoot, tough, grippy and protective
Performance: 6/10
Value: 7/10

The Hierro V6 is a tough-cookie trailer that’s perfect for people who want to pound the paths for long periods of time; over long distances. Beyond that durability, the standout feature is the cloud-like feel underfoot, courtesy of a fairly high midsole stack – 28mm at the heel and 20mm at the toe – of lightweight Fresh Foam X which gives a really plush ride, even on the hardest of trails (or any road sections). A light protective plate (not a full rock plate) also blocks out sharp rocks and roots well without making the sole overly stiff.

Bootie-style synthetic mesh uppers hug your feet nicely and zonal TPU threads, woven in at key points, enhance and elevate the structure of the shoe. Traction and durability is solid, thanks to a Vibram MegaGrip outsole with multi directional lugs on the underside. They run reassuringly grippy with a decent amount of bite, though they’re more dependable on defined trails – particularly any dusty or gravelly ones. They’re not the kind of shoe you’d want to use for flying down a steep and muddy fellside.

Full Specifications

8mm drop / 28mm heel, 20mm toe stack height / Vibram MegaGrip outsole / Fresh Foam X midsole / Laser perforations for ventilation / bootie upper construction / Added toe protection

Selected for the 2020/21 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V6 review.




Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

Price: £160
Weight: 245g
Best for: Chasing FKTs, moving fast over light trails
Key attributes: Lightweight, responsive, comfortable
Performance: 8/10
Value: 5/10

Designed with input from British ultra runner, Tom Evans – and built for speed over long distances – the Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra 240 strikes an impressive balance between weight, protection and performance. At 245 grams this speedster sits in the featherweight category of 200 – 300 gram trail running shoes but still packs a good deal of cushioning and rebound for long mileage over hard-packed ground.

The lightweight and breathable mesh upper is beefed up with abrasion resistant welding in the typically vulnerable areas (toe box and heel). The midsole fuses Adidas’ softer – and more comfortable – Boost foam at the rear and their firmer, more responsive Lightstrike foam at the front. That guarantees a great mix of responsiveness, stability and comfort over long distances. 

They come with a fairly standard 8mm drop and when it comes to grip, you get that familiar Continental rubber outsole, with 2.5mm lugs in an updated lug pattern, that delivers good traction on technical ground. Though these definitely perform better on well trodden trails and rocky sections than slippy peat bogs. 

Full Specifications

2.5mm lugs / 8mm drop / 26mm heel, 18mm toe stack height / Continental rubber outsole / Lightstrike and Boost foam midsole / Lace enclosure / Perforated tongue / Reinforced heel with anti-slip lining.

Selected for the 2020/21 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra review.


La Sportiva Karacal

Price: £98.79
Weight: 290g
Best for: Mid to long distance off-road running
Key attributes: Well-cushioned, versatile, breathable
Performance: 8.5/10
Value: 9/10

This trail running shoe from La Sportiva is designed for people training for mid to long distance off-road running and in need of good shock absorption, reliable cushioning and a bit of toe space to accommodate your feet when they start to swell or splay out.


Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

They have a standard 7mm drop, a 3.5mm lug depth – including deep cut out sections for extra traction – and a pretty low weight of 290g. The stack height is 26mm at the forefoot and 19mm at the front, so there’s quite a lot separating you from the ground here, including dual density EVA foam, a 1.5mm rock shield/chassis and a 4mm removable Ortholite insole. Overall this sole unit brings plenty of absorption and protection but the feel of the trail certainly isn’t removed. There’s also a good amount of stability brought by the slightly wide platform, particularly at the forefoot.

Where it does stand out a fair bit is in the design of the breathable mesh upper which keeps the shoe very well ventilated. That makes it geared towards three-season running, with summer being the time for it to really shine.

Full Specifications

7mm drop / 3.5mm lug depth / breathable mesh upper / three-season running / 26mm stack height at the forefoot, 19mm at the front / dual density EVA foam / 1.5mm rock shield / 4mm removable Ortholite insole / slightly wider platform at the forefoot / FriXion Blue compound lugs.

Selected for the 2021/22 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full La Sportiva Karacal review.



Vibram Five Fingers

Price: £70
Weight: 136g
Best for: Trail running, light hiking
Key attributes: Innovative, good for barefoot runners, comfortable

Performance: 6/10
Value: 8/10

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.

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.”

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.



ON Cloudvista

Price: £130
Weight: 280g
Best for: High mileage trail running on hard-packed defined trails
Key attributes:  Cloudtec’ midsole cushioning, recycled polyester upper, impressive propulsion
Performance: 8/10
Value: 7/10

The Cloudvistas feature that iconic ‘Cloudtec’ midsole technology that makes use of a series of U-shaped blocks of soft, yet responsive, ‘Helion’ foam. These blocks have been hollowed out to both reduce weight and increase the amount of cushioning. By joining rows of these U-Shaped blocks together, On create a midsole that’s extremely cushioned that’s said to reduce muscle fatigue and lower heart rate.

The CloudTec features a channel down the middle of them to allow the outsole and midsole to flex in a range of directions. This flex means that, depending on the way you strike, you’re always going to get a consistent strike and toe off. Speaking of toe offs, the Cloudvista features a 7 mm heel to toe drop which leads to a good deal of rocker to roll off.

Aside from the unique midsole unit, the On Cloudvistas have been designed to be lightweight yet still protective. This is thanks to a main upper that’s been built from 70% recycled polyester, a perforated tongue to keep things airy and breathable and a TPU mudguard that’ll be able to shrug off any rocks and roots.

Full Specifications

‘Cloudtec’ midsole / Helion™ superfoam / 7mm heel to toe drop / 70% recycled polyester upper / perforated tongue / TPU mudguard / MissionGrip sole unit / DWR treatment.

Selected for the 2022/23 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full On Cloudvista review.



Saucony Peregrine 12

Price: £135
Weight: 275g
Best for: Any distance over mixed-terrain
Key attributes: Good versatility, hardwearing build, lightweight, responsive
Performance: 7/10
Value: 7/10

The beauty of the Peregrine 12s is their broad appeal to all kinds of trail runners. Though, with a heel to toe drop of 4mm, they’re more suited to those whose forefoot or midfoot hits the ground first, rather than those who heel strike.

They boast soft, springy, award-winning cushioning that absorbs the impact of each strike without removing the feel of the terrain. The upper is as minimal as ever, featuring pliable overlays to shield against trail debris. To get the optimum fit Saucony offer half sizes which, in addition to the contoured sockliner, makes for a personalised feel. A fabric loop on the heel means they can be clipped into a harness, while a D-ring towards the bottom of the laces makes them compatible with gaiters too.

The outsole, on the other hand, uses redesigned tacky PwrTrac technologies that give the shoes a rugged grip on a range of surfaces, including grassy hillsides, rocky scrambles, muddy ground and rooty forest tracks. The 5mm lugs allow for an aggressive approach and are shaped to shed mud, while the abrasion resistance of the rubber means that this is a pair of trail shoes that should last pretty well.

Full Specifications

5mm lugs / 4mm drop / 26.5mm heel, 22.5mm forefoot / protective rock plate / tacky rubber PwrTrac outsole / contoured EVA sockliner / fabric loop at heel (gaiter compatible). 

Selected for the 2022/23 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full Saucony Peregrine 12 review.



Columbia Montrail Trinity AG

Price: £135
Weight: 290g
Best for: Rocky terrain, mid-distance runs
Key attributes: bouncy, comfortable
Performance: 7/10
Value: 6/10

Columbia’s new Montrail Trinity AG is a shoe with an impressively beefy outsole, making it ideal for running or hiking on choppy, unpredictable trails. The Adapt Trax grip and the tough 4mm lugs provide a huge amount of traction even on wet and slippery terrain, while the outsole’s sheer thickness and durability ensures maximum protection for your feet. These guys are seriously bouncy, especially thanks to the bulky heel stack which makes the rear third of the shoe feel like it’s been fused with half a donut. This extra springy heel also provides great propulsion when navigating through uneven, rocky trails, so make sure you can keep up with your gear before launching into anything too tricky.

The heel stack does give the shoe a fairly steep 8mm drop. The Techlite dual-density midsole combined with the OrthoLite Eco insole ensure that the Montrails are super comfortable right out of the box. The cushioning provides great protection on jagged terrain, though it also significantly reduces the feeling of the ground underfoot. Overall, this is a desirable effect – of course you don’t want to feel every bump – but the lack of feedback can require a bit of getting used to. Once you’ve mastered the Montrails, it feels like running on air.

The upper is composed of a breathable seamless mesh with haptic print layered stylishly over the toebox and the lower sections of the shoe. These sections of reinforcement add a lot of stability for very little extra weight, and they give the upper some firm structure while retaining a good amount of flex throughout. The elastic isometric laces can take a couple of tries to get perfect, but once you’ve got them locked down, you’ve got access to a huge amount of security while enjoying exceptionally natural feel without putting any unnecessary pressure on tops of your feet.

Full Specifications

8mm drop / 4mm lugs / Navic Fit System / Adaptive Guidance Pebax Plate / Techlite+™ Dual-density midsole system / OrthoLite® Eco insole / OrthoLite® Eco insole.



What To Look For In A Trail Running Shoe

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 will be better than others on slippery fells.


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.

Related: Best Trail Running Packs
Related: Best Trail Running Caps

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 for running, 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 height 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.

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