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What's your favorite trail running shoe?

I've been trail running for a number of years now, and am looking to buy a new trail running shoe. I'm looking to add your recommendations for trail running shoes to my list of possible candidates. So, without further ado, what is your favorite trail running shoe and why?

Thanks a million!

9 Replies

@bryndsharp I like the Altra Superiors - 3.5 and 4. I tried the Lone Peaks and they were just too cushy. Too much cushion seems to give me issues with my calves. The Superiors are low cushion, low profile, and fit me well.

I have also liked Newton BoCos, but they became difficult to find.

If you look up "Ginger Runner" on you tube, he has some pretty informative sneaker reviews that can help you narrow things down some more. He seems a bit of a goof-ball, but his ten-minute reviews are very organized and thorough.

@TomIrvine thanks for this! Normally I would go to the store and check out shoes in addition to doing online research, but clearly that isn't possible right now. I'll definitely check out "Ginger Runner" on YouTube - any gear review videos will be super helpful right now, as I can't go into the store!

@bryndsharp as you likely already know (b/c you have so much amazing outdoor experience!), running shoe fit is so dependent on each person's feet. If you tell us more about your feet (high/low/average volume, wide/narrow/medium width, trouble spots, etc.), we can probably make a few specific recommendations of brands/models to try! We've got a resident footwear expert with @REI-PearlD who's amazing with her shoe recommendations (and general running advice)!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@REI-JenK thanks! And yes, you're right about shoe fit.

My foot is about average volume, but wide (although I sometimes use non-wide - regular - running shoes, depending on the shoe). I don't really have any trouble spots, but I have a chronic issue in my left knee (patellar dislocation), so I like to have some support, but I don't like shoes with too much support, as they cause me to feel less of the ground and its shape, which can actually be more harmful for me. I tend to look for shoes with moderate cushion. Good tread and grippy rubber are also important for me, especially with my knee issue where having solid footing is crucial. I am hoping to expand my running shoe arsenal, and am looking to possibly explore shoes that I have not yet used, so any advice/shoe recommendations you @REI-JenK@REI-PearlD, or any of the other REI employees have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

Hey @bryndsharp

Given your foot profile and chronic knee issue, I'd think about the following:

Brooks Cascadia 14: This is a shoe that used to be very narrow in the forefoot, and has become a lot wider in recent versions. Brooks classifies this shoe as cushion, but to me it's pretty firm. That said, it has excellent traction and stability. As I mentioned in another thread, I had to break it in a little by wearing it to work, and I'm pretty impressed by its performance on hard concrete and on the trail after that period. It's also my go-to shoe with MicroSpikes.  

Hoka Speedgoat 4: This is a moderate cushion, high-traction shoe which features Vibram Megagrip on the outsole. It comes in both standard and wide widths. Hoka was originally designed to help injured runners get back on the roads and trails, so you may find their approach to cushioning here beneficial.

Altra Timp 2: The Altra Timp is wide in the forefoot, and has excellent traction. For me, I have a slightly high volume foot, so I took out the sockliner (the fabric insert) and elected to run in the shoe without it. The result is an even roomier feel in the forefoot, and a more responsive ride underneath. Many Altra shoes are designed with this removable sockliner, so you can make small adjustments to cushion and volume.

If you want something slightly less-cushioned, you could check out the Altra Superior 4. 

Salomon Speedcross 5: The Speedcross has the most aggressive traction of all the shoes mentioned here, features a less-cushioned, responsive ride, and also comes in a wide. I suspect if you buy most of your shoes in a wide, you'll definitely need a wide in this model. 

You have many ideas to help get you started! Remember that the fit of a shoe will always be affected by your choice of sock, and whether or not you elect to use after-market inserts, so definitely consider all of it going forward with a purchase! And don't forget that our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee still applies even while our stores are closed, so you can easily make returns or exchanges via mail, or at our retail locations once they reopen. 

Happy trails!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

The Salomon Speedcross 5 has always been my favorite.

@REI-PearlD thanks for all the advice! I'll take a look at the shoes you recommended!

@bryndsharp I love the Altra Lone Peak 4.5.  The zero drop takes some break-in for your calves and Achilles, but if you ease into them they are amazing.  The wide toe-box gives me fantastic stability and flexibility on rocky trails.  My only complaint is when off-trail on traverses with loose sand or scree they tend to sideslip downhill unless I angle the toes upward.  But that's it.  Just did 8+ miles on the Colorado Trail twice this week.  2:45 - I'm not fast, but I'm almost 63.

@bryndsharp I've been running in Topo Athletic Ultraventure shoes for the past year--they've probably lasted me this long because I haven't been running as much trail as road in the past year. I've been doing more road training recently due to an upcoming marathon but still like to connect my training routes through trails, and I end up wearing my road running shoes when I do that which isn't ideal. Anyway, this particular shoe has a pretty wide toe box which I thought I would dislike but I found that I liked having the extra room. It's supportive. I do feel pretty connected to the ground--they're not super cushy/padded, just enough to provide support and some light protection from rocks and things like that. I suppose I wish there was a bit more protection in that sense. I used this shoe most often while running around some more technical trail outside Salinas, CA that included sharp switchbacks uphill and downhill, and found that I felt pretty secure in terms of grip. But, this is my first trail running shoe so I don't have anything to compare it to. I will say that after maybe 60-80 miles the back heel part of the shoe (like the part that snugly holds your heel and ankle on the back of the shoe) started breaking down or the cushion started sliding down into the shoe or something like that. That's something that I noticed would happen with my everyday walking shoes if I got lazy and would just slide them on without unlacing them, or if I would step on the back heel part of the shoe. But with this shoe, because I was trying to prevent that very thing from happening, I never did such a thing, and it still started breaking down. It's unfortunate because when I first got these one of the things I loved was how my heel felt super locked in place and my foot didn't slide around despite my toes having a ton of breathing room.