The Best Trail Shoes of 2021
We scoured the forums, asked our friends, and hit the trails for hundreds of miles in many of these shoes. Shoe choice is personal, and there is no perfect shoe for every person or condition, so we recommend visiting an expert at a local speciality running shoe store and testing until you find your fit. But here’s a starting point.
1. Hoka Speedgoat – $139. Visit a trail running group or forum, and you’ll almost always see the Speedgoat as a repeat answer for favorite go-to trail shoe that meets needs in most conditions. Other popular choices: Hoka Torrents for light weight, speed & agility; Hoka Challenger for more cushioning and normal trails; Hoka Mafates for rainy, muddy conditions or sandy trails.
2. Altra Lone Peaks – $119. Many love the wide toe box and zero drop Altra is known for. For less cushion, some go with the Altra Superior; for maximum cushion Altra Olympus. Topos are a popular alternative if you like the wide toe box, but not the zero drop (they usually have a narrower heel and midfoot).
3. Brooks Caldera – $139. A popular road to trail shoe for hard pack or moderate trails.
4. Brooks Cascadia – $129. Consistently at the top of the lists and a traditional trail shoe many people stick with for years once they try it.
5. Salomon Speedcross – $149. People love the big lugs for muddy and off-trail terrain if they fit right. Salomon’s tend to work well for people with narrower feet who like a tight fit. Comes in a GoreTex version for a good winter and snow shoe.
6. Saucony Peregrine ISO – $119. Successor to the Peregrine 8, this shoe is known for excellent traction in almost any condition, along with the comfort of a road shoe. Available in a wide version.
7. Topo Ultraventure – $130. Reminds some people of the Hoka Speedgoat but with a wider toe box and more cushion for the longer days.
8. Topo Mtn Racer – $140. Fits a bit smaller than other Topos (UltraFly, MT-3, TerraVenture); good for people who need something that secures their feet on technical, steep and off camber trails.
9. Salomon Sense 3 – $119. A popular road to trail shoe from Salomon with 9mm drop and a narrower fit. The S/Lab Sense 8 or S/Lab Ultra are an alternative as lightweight race shoes, but are more expensive and not very durable.
10. Inov-8 Roclite 290 – $125. A very versatile trail shoe with a very grippy outsole that works well across a variety of terrain from mud to rocky. Medium width, 4mm drop and good ground feel (not very cushioned), but sturdy enough for long days out. There are other options in the Roclite series with higher 8mm drop and GoreTex versions that work well for mud and winter running.
If you have favorites we’ve missed, let us know in the comments with your insights on fit, performance or other factors you care about. We’ll continue to make updates based on feedback.
Cover image: Pro triathlete and former collegiate runner @spiampiano trail running in her backyard in Marin, California.