In Editors' Picks, Gear

Admit it, trail running is a great sport, but your experience is generally determined by the gear you use. Though apparel, hydration, nutrition and electronics are excellent instruments to keep in your quiver, the most basic and important piece of equipment every runner needs to own is a reliable and functional pair of trail shoes. What’s on your feet will help you cruise over rocks and roots, grip steep uphills, cushion bomber downhills and generally keep you up right.

Below are this year’s top 11 fall trail shoes. We’ve asked these brands what their motivation was for creation, highlighted features and technology and what’s the designer’s favorite component. Learn more about outfitting your feet with for this fall and winter by reading below.

 

Brand Shoe Heel/Toe Drop Weight Cost
adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic XT GTX 6.5mm 11.5oz $170
Brooks PureGrit 7 4mm 8.7oz $120
Hoka One One Hoka One One | Torrent 5mm 7.4oz $120
Under Armour Horizon BPF 7mm 7.6oz $130
Inov-8 Terraultra 260 0mm 9.17oz $130
Salomon Ultra Pro 8mm 8.8oz $150
Merrell Agility Synthesis Flex 8mm 7oz $110
La Sportiva Lycan GTX 6mm 10.5oz $140
Altra Lone Peak 4 0mm 8.5oz $120
Scarpa Spin RS 8mm 8.2oz $135
ON Cloudventure 6mm 8.5oz $150

adidas Outdoor | Terrex Agravic XT GTX

Heel to Toe Drop: 6.5mm

Weight: 11.5oz

Price: $170

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

We wanted to create a technical mountain running shoe for rough alpine terrain where stability and protection is required. By combining Gore-Tex waterproof breathable technology with Boost cushioning and a unique lug outsole design made out of Continental Rubber for unmatched grip,  the XT provides performance at the highest level.

What unique features would you like to highlight?

This off-trail running shoe’s key features are its proprietary Boost technology midsoles for superior cushion, endless energy return, and high adaptability on rocky surfaces, the GORE-TEX extended comfort membrane for waterproofness and protection from rain, sleet or snow and the unique Continental Rubber outsole which provides extraordinary grip on a variety of surfaces.

Brooks | PureGrit 7

Heel to Toe Drop: 4mm

Weight: 8.7oz

Price: $120

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

We sought to update our beloved Connect trail shoe to continue delivering a flexible, low-profile experience without sacrificing traction or durability.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

Lightweight traction, anatomical fit & a natural ride.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

Our favorite part is the contrast between the lifestyle-influenced heathered mesh on the vamp with the technical Ariaprene burrito-tongue construction. It’s an example of ways we can push the aesthetics of a trail shoe without sacrificing its performance.

Hoka One One | Torrent

Heel to Toe Drop: 5mm

Weight: 7.4oz

Price: $120

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

The Torrent was created as a lightweight, agile trail shoe capable of fast racing, but still equipped with signature HOKA cushion and ride characteristics. We don’t believe you need to compromise comfort and protection to have a lightweight, fast shoe, and the Torrent, which was created with input from our elite trail athletes, embodies that.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

The Torrent features a ProFLY midsole, which offers a softer landing on the heel and a more responsive push-off in the forefoot. It also features aggressive lugs made with sticky rubber for maximum traction on technical trails. The upper is also remarkable light and breathable, yet resilient against lateral torsion and other off-road wear-and-tear.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

Creating a shoe that successfully combines agility and race-ready weight with this much cushion was no small task, but the Torrent absolutely offers the best of both worlds from HOKA.

Under Armour | Horizon BPF

Heel to Toe Drop: 7mm

Weight: 7.6oz

Price: $130

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

In a true mountain race, runners may experience uneven trails, scree fields, steep downhills, mud, sharp rocks and even river crossings. Athletes need support and protection from these elements and to still be able to run fast and compete.

Technical mountain racing inspired Under Armour to create its newest trail shoe, the UA Horizon BPF, recently introduced on UA.com.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

Under Armour partnered with Michelin to add the tire company’s premium Outdoor Compound (OC) to the outsole of the shoe. The lugs are derived from mountain bike tires for aggressive traction, while the tacky compound works well to provide stability on slick rock.

For additional protection and durability, the Horizon BPF has an anatomically molded one-piece PU (polyurethane) cast upper that wraps as a cage over breathable mesh and acts as a supportive and flexible exo-skeleton.

The UA Horizon BPF is incredibly lightweight to move quickly over technical terrain and cushioned under-foot to remain comfortable over long distances.

Technical benefits of the shoes include:

  • Lightweight, quick drying, air mesh upper to keep you dry and comfortable on long runs.
  • Molded collar foam package for comfort.
  • Highly breathable air mesh tongue to promote air flow and keep feet cool.
  • Charged™ foam pucks in heel and forefoot for responsive comfort.
  • Lightweight EVA midsole for optimal cushioning.
  • Michelin® Oc Outsole Compound for excellent traction.
  • Michelin® Wild Dig Decent’R Outsole Lug Pattern for shedding mud and debris.
  • 7mm Drop.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

“Bullet Proof Feather (BPF) was the concept for the shoe,” explained Barry Hewitt, Under Armour Footwear Category Manager. “We created a shoe that’s light and fast enough for trail athletes to compete in, on the most rugged mountain terrain around the world.”

Inov-8 | Terraultra 260

Heel to Toe Drop: 0mm

Weight: 9.17oz

Price: $130

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

The goal was to create a shoe that delivers high levels of shock absorption without compromising on ground feel.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

The biomechanical design, which moves with the natural movement of the foot, and the zero drop differential, which makes you feel like you can run forever. The Exteroflow (TPU) midsole delivers superior shock absorption without compromising on ground feel.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

The overall biomechanical shoe design and construction in the upper, midsole and outsole allows the shoe to move with the foot which is especially important when running over longer distances.

Salomon | Ultra Pro

Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm

Weight: 8.8oz

Price: $150

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

The Ultra Pro is the Pro version of Salomon’s top-selling S/Lab piece of all time – the 2017 S/Lab Sense Ultra – which is new John Muir Trail FKT holder and UTMB champ François D’haene’s shoe. For 2018, Salomon has fledged the Ultra shoes, launching a new collection specifically sculpted to the needs of ultra-distance athletes.

The Ultra Pro provides long-distance comfort and reassurance to help ultra athletes get through every state of this unique event. Protection and support to help feet as they fatigue, grip for any surface, and great fit adjustment make this the choice for committed endurance runners.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

The Ultra Pro has a new EnergySave forefoot insert made of TPU, which protects and cushions the foot in such a way that doesn’t pack out over the distance, so you’ll receive the same amount of cushion at mile 100 as you do mile 5. It also has two external Sensifit wings that are decoupled from the side of the shoe, which secure the foot to the bottom unit of the shoe. These Sensifit wings cradle the foot, delivering a secure, comfortable and reliable fit. The Ultra Pro has a Premium Wet Traction Contagrip outsole that provides grip, stability and security through any terrain.

Merrell | Agility Synthesis Flex

Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm

Weight: 7oz

Price: $110

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

We wanted to create a true trail runner that would excel from road to trail. Something that balanced the connection you want to feel when running trail, but also with the cushion and protection you need. We know during trail running, it’s imperative to have superior traction when running on varied terrain, both wet and dry, so we were very specific with our lug design and paired it with our best gripping compound, M Select Grip+.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

Our Hyperlock™ heel combined with our dual-directional flex groove midsole and sticky lugs deliver excellent agility and stability – two things incredibly necessary to feel confident on the trail.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

While the Agility Synthesis Flex was designed to be a top trail running shoe, we’re thrilled that it’s incredibly versatile and can also be utilized as a road running shoe, as well as a light hiker, due to its low weight and high-level of traction on varied terrain.

This newest version of the Agility shoe is in my opinion, the lightest and most flexible of the series. They do feel a bit larger on my feet than the previous version which hugged the arch and had incredible support in the mid-foot. The Agility Flex Synthesis is looser around the arch and a bit narrower in the toe-box, but still gives plenty of room for your feet and toes to expand while out on long, technical runs and hikes. I’ve taken these on long, undulating runs in the mountains, on well-groomed less technical trails, and on road runs too! It is a great starter shoe for trail running virgins as well as a sturdy, dependable (and fashionable!) shoe for trail running veterans as well!

– Mirna Valereo (Merrell Ambassador)

La Sportiva | Lycan GTX

Heel to Toe Drop: 6mm

Weight: 10.5oz

Price: $140

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

The Lycan quickly became a favorite amongst runners looking for a mid-distance training shoe with ample cushion and an aggressive outsole package for aggressive terrain. The Lycan GTX builds on the platform by adding a waterproof breathable Gore-Tex membrane for extra protection in wet or cold conditions.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

The airmesh upper provides a lightweight breathable platform while still providing structure to the upper of the shoe.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

The outsole uses our own FriXion rubber in an aggressive lug pattern for great traction in technical conditions. Paired with the injection molded EVA underfoot package, it creates a unique platform for technical trail running.

Altra | Lone Peak 4

Heel to Toe Drop: 0mm

Weight: 8.5oz

Price: $120

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

Altra’s Lone Peak 4 was designed to help hikers, trail runners and thru-hikers tackle easy trails to gnarly mountain peaks with ultimate comfort thanks to Altra’s FootShape™ toe box, Zero Drop™ platform and Fit4Her™

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

  • A new skeletal StoneGuard™ design for pinpoint anatomical protection and better flexibility at a lighter weight.
  • An upgraded, stickier MaxTrac™ rubber tread provides the perfect combination of grip and durability.
  • The upper features ballistic mesh for exceptional durability.
  • Altra enhanced the drainage zones for quicker water release.
  • An expanded bunion and pinky toe window combine protection with roominess for more comfort.
  • Altra’s 4-Point GaiterTrap™ allows for the snuggest fitting shoe-to-gaiter combination available.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

The designer’s favorite feature on the new Lone Peak 4 is the updated TrailClaw™ outsole, which now features our most aggressive, carved out, multi-directional lugs for stronger toe-off, quicker mud release and increase traction.

Scarpa | Spin RS

Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm

Weight: 8.2oz

Price: $135

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

Our first Spin model launched as a light, low profile trail shoe made to move light and fast in the mountains.  The Spin RS is a more cushioned, long distance version of the Spin.  The motivation behind the creation of the Spin RS was to add a model to our product line that maintained a lightweight flex and feel, but better supported higher mileage trail pursuits.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

  • The Spin RS has a Sock-Fit design that prevents tongue slippage, reduces bulk, and enhances fit.
  • It has been constructed with a TPU toe cap and EVA rock plate to protect your toes and feet from rugged and rocky terrain.
  • The outsole has been designed with Vibram Megagrip rubber, which provides outstanding traction.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

The fact that we could create an extremely rugged shoe that can keep your feet comfortable for long distances, without adding too much weight or sacrificing flexibility.

ON | Cloudventure

Heel to Toe Drop: 6mm

Weight: 8.5oz

Price: $150

What was the motivation behind the creation of this product?

On is a brand born in the Swiss Alps and as such, the product team wanted to create a product that could excel no matter what the trail might throw at you.  The team believes that the shoe should be able to handle the toughest of climbs as well as the steepest decent without compromising on grip or support.

What unique features would you like to highlight? 

The Cloudventure delivers grip and cushioning through clever Cloud Elements.  These Cloud Elements collapse during impact to provide both cushioning and grip when running up or downhill.  All of these features are packed into an incredibly lightweight and attractive design.

What’s the designer’s favorite part of this product and why? 

Built into the midsole of the shoe is a plastic Speedboard that provides two key functions.  First, it flexes and moves in key areas so the foot always remains level with the terrain as it is propelled into the next step.  Second, it provides protection from the rocks, roots, and anything else you will encounter on the trails.

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