Best Men’s Trail Running Shoes
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Our Top Choices – Men’s Trail Running Shoes in 2020
In a hurry? Here are our top 3 recommendations…
|ASICS Gel Nimbus 20 Mens Trail Running Shoe||Check Price|
|ALTRA Superior 4 Men’s Trail Running Shoe||Check Price|
|Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner||Check Price|
The Nimbus has been Asics’s signature line for two decades now and one of the main reasons the company became a leader in the running shoe market.
The newest Gel Nimbus 20 model certainly hearkens back to a more traditional form of running, with moderate stability features and plenty of cushioning; its 10mm heel to toe drop contrasts sharply with the minimalist designs of today. Indeed, the shoe has attracted a loyal fan base, with some runners having used them since they were in their teens.
At just under 11 ounces, the Nimbus is fairly middle of the road for speed. It won’t feel clunky, but you’re also not going to forget that they’re there. They’re a great road shoe but are also trail capable. Just stick to dry, well-worn paths, because the outsole doesn’t have a ton of traction.
One area where ASICS has made some improvements over the years is with durability. You’ll get a lot more miles out of the 20th model compared to their 1st. Most recently, they added some organic materials to the midsole to slow down wear and improve resiliency.
There aren’t a lot of new features on the new Nimbus to encourage runners to upgrade or justify their higher price tag if you already own a pair. However, they’re a solid bet if you’ve worn out your current trail running shoes and need a high-quality replacement.
Those looking for an ultra-cushy shoe for their trail runs will love the Superior 4 from Altra. Its 21mm heel to toe drop is one of the largest in the trail running market and is great for heel strikers and anyone needing some extra protection back there.
That being said, they’re incredibly lightweight and weigh just eight ounces. The uppers are constructed from a very thin mesh that does wonders for ventilation, and the outsole is thin and relatively unassuming. They’ll work great for pavement and dry, uncluttered trails.
These shoes are meant to go fast, but maybe not too far. The midsole is fairly thin, and for most guys, it would be painful to run a marathon in. The minimalist midsole will likely last just a couple hundred miles, wearing out before the outsoles or uppers.
A major shortfall on the Superior is its lack of a rock plate; you will feel sharp stones if you’re running rocky trails. There is a removable “StoneGuard,” but it doesn’t do much to dampen the sensation of rock underfoot.
The Superior 4 is a great hybrid running shoe if you need a little extra cushion in your step, though, and undoubtedly stand among the best men’s trail running shoes on the market.
Merrill’s better known for their hiking boots and shoes than running gear, but they’ve been able to use what they’ve learned from hikers to create one of the most protective trail running shoes on the market.
The Glove 4 is built with a strong heel cup for extra support and a thick toe cap to protect against rock stubs. They’re also big on ventilation, so they’re a great option if you run in hot or humid climates where some extra airflow would be a game-changer.
But what most surprises the Glove’s first-time buyers is just how comfortable they are; they fit like… well, a glove! The tongue and lacing system come together in a way that doesn’t put too much pressure on the top of your foot – one of the biggest complaints with trail runners.
Surprisingly though, the Merrills are not that durable; the mesh which covers the majority of the shoe has a tendency to wear out, especially if you’re running on dusty trails. Unless you clean them fastidiously after each run, the grit gets between the fibers and slowly scours them down to nothing.
If you’re looking for one of the best trail running shoes that’s also super comfortable, Glove 4 will be a perfect fit. Merrill also eschews flashy colors in favor of earthy tones, so they work well for off-trail use too.
When it comes to aggressive trail running shoes, the Speedcross is at the front of the pack. Take a peek at the outsoles to see its massive lugs, and you’ll know this shoe was built for running in the worst conditions – rain, mud, sleet, maybe even a little snow.
With an 11mm drop, the Speedcrosses are middle of the road for trail running shoe comfort. It’s enough to alleviate shocks, particularly on big downhills, but not enough to feel like you’re running on a cloud.
The Speedcross uses the company’s patented Quicklace system, a nylon cord that replaces the usual laces and cinches up rather than ties. It makes taking them on and off a bit quicker while applying even pressure over the top of your foot. The flip side to that is that you can’t do custom lacing to alleviate sore spots, as would be possible with conventional laces.
These shoes should definitely be labeled “trail only” as those extra-large lugs make for an unbalanced and unresponsive feel on the pavement. While the Speedcross base model is not waterproof, Salomon does make a Goretex version that is nearly impenetrable to moisture and one of the best waterproof running shoes you could buy.
If you like running technical terrain and rarely hit the pavement, the Speedcross 4 will likely be a great trail running shoe for you.
If you’re searching for a great pair of budget trail running shoes, the Terrex AX3 from Adidas might be one of the best.
By all accounts, the AX3 looks more like a hiking shoe than a trail runner, thanks to a high arch and taller than average uppers. They’re also built like a hiking shoe, with incredible durability and loads of support. If you’ve got weak ankles and are worried about the safety of trail running, these would be an excellent choice.
Despite the beefy construction, the AX3 remain flexible and comfortable, without any of the expected stiffness of a hiking shoe. One complaint with them is that the midsole is a bit soft; they’re designed for shorter runs, with anything over ten miles being too uncomfortable.
Adidas added a really grippy outsole to the AX3’s to make them one of the better budget trail runners for technical terrain. The lugs aren’t so large that they can’t be used on pavement, but have plenty of bite on soft trails.
The Terrex AX3 is one of the most versatile trail running shoes you could buy, functioning equally well as an approach shoe, a casual shoe (they have a very understated look and come in a variety of colors), and of course, as a trail runner.
A complete 180° from the AX3’s, the Terrex Speeds have a bit of a soccer shoe appearance, which isn’t that surprising given Adidas’s fame in the world of soccer. The uppers are sleek, surrounding the foot tightly, and are capped off with a thin outsole. Lining the bottom of the outsole are some thick lugs that look like they can really tear through the mud, which they do!
The Speeds take a very different tact compared to the AX3, with a lightweight sole that lets you feel the trail. This makes them a great choice for more experienced trail runners.
Speed’s lack of cushioning and stability protection make them a poor choice for technical trails where safety is a concern, though, which is disappointing on a shoe with such an aggressive outsole. However, if your well-worn trail turns to mud in a heavy rainstorm, you’ll definitely be covered with the Speeds on your feet.
While very different from the Terrex AX3, the Speeds are also a good choice for those wanting to wear their trail running shoes on a daily basis. These come in a wide range of colors and have a similar look to some well-known sneaker brands.
Hoka One One is all about comfort – good fit, ample cushioning, no break-in time required, and the Speedgoat exemplifies that ethos to T.
Unlike most trail running shoes, the Speedgoats don’t just cushion the heel (they’re actually a zero drop shoe), instead of extending that padding over the whole length of your foot. It gives them a rather strange appearance, but once you’ve tried them (and gotten used to the feel) you may never want to go back to anything else.
All that extra cushion makes the Speedgoats one of the best men’s trail running shoes if you like to do really long trail runs, anything over 12 miles. They’re not very responsive though (can’t feel much through all that cushioning), so stick to routes that don’t require as much flexibility from your foot.
A common criticism of Hoka One One’s products is that they are not very durable. Unfortunately, this is also true of the Speedgoat; despite its potential as a distance running shoe, the midsole wears out quickly. The uppers don’t fare much better, with the mesh getting holes after a few hundred miles.
The Speedgoat doesn’t come cheap, and unless you’re already a convert to their style of trail running shoe, they might feel awkward for a while. They are one of the only distance trail running shoes, though.
We already covered the Speedcross 4, which came out back in 2016, so what kind of changes did Salomon make over the next three years to create the Speedcross 5?
They’re a little heavier thanks to a cushier upper that hugs the foot better, along with a thicker and stronger heel cup. If you’ve used the Speedcross 4 and your foot felt a little sloppy, the 5 might alleviate that problem.
The 5 also comes with even beefier lugs on the outsole. Given the reputation of the 4, this is probably overkilled for most trail runners, but if you run in mud and snow on a near-daily basis, this could be an advantage.
One downside to the updated edition is that they’re not quite as breathable as their predecessor. This could be due to the thicker and more durable materials used on the upper, but it’s a strike against them if you live in a hotter climate.
The Speedcross 4 is still selling strong, and there’s a significant price difference between them and the Speedcross 5. The increased cost makes the 5 a niche product that’s only suitable for runners that felt the 4 was just not tough enough.
Quite often, when you get a really aggressive trail running shoe, it weighs a ton. Thick outsoles, rock plates, beefy stability in the uppers – it all adds up to more ounces. The Spins from Scarpa buck the stereotype and then some; they’re one of the best pairs of lightweight, technical trail running shoes you can buy.
Let’s start with the weight – 9.5 ounces per shoe; that’s nearly the same as some of the lightest shoes on this list that are built for pavement. With a heel to toe drop of just 4mm, you can see where some cuts were made to get to that weight – there’s very little heel cushioning in these minimalist trail runners.
The midsole and forefoot aren’t much better – there’s not a lot of protection from rocks with these shoes, they’re designed to let you feel the trail, and sometimes the trail feels pretty rough. It would have been nice if Scarpa put a thicker toe cap on the Spins, though; no one needs to feel a rock stub.
Where these shoes really shine though is on soft dirt or muddy trails. The 4mm lugs on the Spins really dig in and provide unbeatable traction. The uppers keep an iron grip on your foot as you proceed through slippery terrain, making them one of the most stable trail runners we’ve reviewed.
If you’re new to trail running, skip the Spins. They’re just too thin, and until you get a better sense of “feeling the trail,” it’s best to buy something with more cushion and protection. However, experienced trail runners doing gnarly routes are going to love them.
Arcteryx is better known for its backpacks and jackets, but anything they set their sights on, they do well. If you’re looking for a great pair of light and fast running shoes, the Normal SLs are a solid option.
Coming in at under six ounces, they are some of the lightest trail running shoes on the market right now. This was accomplished by removing everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. The uppers on these shoes are near see-through, providing only the slightest protection against moisture, but top-notch ventilation.
The outsole is also quite thin and not too aggressive, with short lugs that are comfortable enough on pavement, making them one of the better choices for road to trail running shoes.
Arctyrx clearly designed them to be more of an approach shoe than a long-distance runner, as the cushioning is fairly minimal. The toe cap is also pretty thin, and structural protection is barebones. They’re best suited for minimalist runners trying to shed as many ounces as possible.
Like all Arcteryx products, these shoes come with a hefty price tag. However, ounce counters will be overjoyed by the sleek feel and featherlight weight they bring.