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
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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
Best for: Rocky trails, medium to long distances
Key attributes: Sturdy and protective, grippy, fast feeling
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.”
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.
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Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3
Best for: Long training runs, orienteering races
Key attributes: Breathable, lightweight, good traction
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.