As the footwear buyer at Tahoe Mountain Sports I put together this list of our top selling trail running shoes and some of their key characteristics, what foot type they might fit best, and best uses to help you pick your new trail running shoes this season. Siobhan, Jackie and I, the current TMS crew, went for a run to test them out. We had a few drops of rain as we drove to the trailhead that quickly cleared leaving us with a spectacular sunset that glowed through the clouds onto the snowcapped mountains and newly budding grasses. We love getting outside after work and hope you are too!
All shoes listed in this post are available at our store in Truckee, California, although sizes and colors may vary depending on availability. Please stop by and see us if you are thinking about new shoes for trail running, hiking, backpacking, and every day mountain living. We want to help you get the perfect shoe every time!
Top 10 Trail Running Shoes
(in no particular order)
There’s a lot to like about the Brooks Cascadia. It’s been around forever and is a solid shoe that is comfortable right out of the box for most people. It’s a good all around shoe for walking, hiking and trail running. I love that it’s easy to break in, has excellent support, moderate cushioning, and great traction. The Brooks Cascadia 12 is wider than the Cascadia 11, more similar to the Cascadia 10 which many reviewers seem to like. It’s more flexible with a fluid stride that absorbs your landing and springs you forward through your toe off. Improved durability and ballistic rock sole protect your feet against sharp rocks and roots. Rear foot lugs act as a break on tricky downhill slopes. Overall, this is a good looking and performing shoe that is lightweight and comfortable with a traditional fit.
Category: Easy to Moderate Trails
Differential: 27 mm x 17 mm with a 10 mm drop
Upper: Tight-knit mesh with synthetic and microfiber overlays
Outsole: Abrasion resistant HPR Plus rubber with thermoplastic EVA Bassistic Rock Shield between the outsole and the midsole
Topo shoes are known for their natural, open toebox shape, low heel-to-toe drop (3mm), and simple, lightweight cushioning. The new Terraventure pushes the limits of lightweight performance and rugged durability. Designed as a trail running shoe it’s also versatile enough to work as a light hiker or travel/walking shoe. Other features include a fully gusseted tongue, secure lacing system and snug fit in the waist and heel. This is the most rugged shoe Topo has ever made and great value for $110.
How does the Terraventure differ from the MT2? It offers more protection and cushioning, has a rock plate in the forefoot, and features a more aggressive outsole with deeper lugs and a wider base platform to ensure stability and durability.
Category: Moderate to Technical Trails
Differential: 25mm x 22mm with a 3mm drop
Upper: Tear resistant durable and breathable mesh upper
Outsole: An aggressive sticky rubber lug sole and forefoot rock plate provides phenomenal traction and protection from rocks and debris
The Topo MT2 has Topo’s signature fit – roomy in the toes but snug in the waist and heel, a fully gusseted tongue, and a 3mm heel to toe drop. This trail-running shoe offers comfort, performance and versatility with breathable mesh uppers and strong midfoot overlays for durability, grip and stability. They were named Best Buy by Runner’s World magazine and I would agree – you get a durable, supporative, solid shoe for a great price. These are my go to shoes and everyone at the shop has a pair so that says something – we all like this shoe.
Low drop shoes from Topo and Altra are good for people with forefoot pain such as a neuroma or arthritic changes in the big toe joint.
Category: Light to Moderate Trails
Differential: 23mm x 20mm with a 3mm drop
Upper: Lightweight breathable materials
Outsole: Carbon rubber outsole with multidirectional lug traction, forefoot flex grooves and mud-release features while optimizing rubber surface area for durability and grip
These shoes are ready to go for miles right out of the box, no break in time needed. Feedback on the updated model is overwhelmingly positive. The Challenger ATR is known for being comfortable on and off trails, excellent traction, and a supportive fit. Updates include a wider toe box and more padded tongue. The fit is modeled after Hoka’s best selling shoe, the Clifton. This shoe is an excellent performer that excels on mountain trails and promises a smooth ride. They are great for anyone with knee or back problems, and those who want a cushy, fast run.
Category: Road to Trail
Cushioning: Moderate to high
Differential: 29mm x 24mm with a 5mm drop
Upper: Lightweight breathable materials with reinforcing overlays
Outsole: Rubber-tipped lugs for all-terrain traction
The Lone Peak 3.0 was inspired by one of the most rocky, rugged mountains in the Wasatch Range
of Utah and designed to tackle the gnarly terrain of the Wasatch 100. It features Altra’s fully cushioned zero drop platform so you can maintain a natural foot position throughout your run and it encourages a low-impact landing. The toe box has FootShape which allows toes to relax and spread out naturally reducing over-pronation, enhancing stability and creating a powerful toe-off to maximize your running performance. In addition to trail running these shoes are also a top pick for long distance hikers like Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Hikers.
Category: Moderate to Expert Trails
Differential: 25mm with 0 drop
Upper: Quick Dry Air Mesh
Outsole: Altra MaxTrac Sticky Rubber with TrailClaw
Salomon is going wide with the Sense Marin which they are calling their widest trail running shoe for 2017. The Sense Marin is made for long trail runs over rolling terrain; runners say it’s comfortable and supportive. It has all the Salomon features that make for a great running shoe including a comfortable midsole, protective outsole with lugs for traction, and single pull lace system. This would be a great shoe for running on fire roads, dirt trails, family hikes, dog walks and daily life.
Differential: 23 mm x 17 mm with a 6 mm drop
Upper: Nylon mesh/textile
Outsole: Contagrip rubber
Salomon has been trying to get into the max cushion market for the past few seasons and seems to finally nail it with the Sense Pro Max. This is a great road to trail shoe and offers stability for people who overpronate. These shoes have more cushion than other traditional Salomon trail running shoes and the cushioning is firmer than other cushioned shoes with a good amount of energy return. The toe box is narrower than other brands like Topo and Altra but it’s wider than previous Salomon shoes like the Sense Pro 2. Other features include Salomon’s Endofit sock liner sleeve hugs the foot, welded Sensifit overlays on the upper and kevlar Quicklaces. A Profeel film, like a mini rock plate, protects the foot just in front of the arch. This is a high quality shoe that will perform well at all of your races this summer.
Differential: 30 mm x 24 mm with a 6 mm drop
Upper: Stretch air mesh with a wide weave
Outsole: Wet Traction Contagrip
From long distance hiking to trail running, the La Sportiva Wildcat won’t let you down. All the reviews I read about this shoe noted how comfortable they are right out of the box plus they’re lightweight and breathable so you won’t develop hot spots or blisters. Amazingly stable, cushioned and grippy another review noted. These shoes have a regular fit and are good for people who like a higher volume fit. They have the most drop out of all the trail running shoes we carry at 12 mm, these are good for people who have heel pain from plantar fasciitis or Achilles or posterior tibial tendonitis. They have a simple one piece upper with a protective wear-resistant mesh trail case and a foot-wrap lacing harness for a secure and stable fit for every type of foot.
Differential: 24 mm x 12 mm with a 12 mm drop
Upper: AirMesh / Trail Cage / TPU Transkinetic Heel Stabilizer / UreTech reinforcements
Outsole: FriXion AT / Impact Brake System X-Axis
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor is the burliest of our mountain running shoes and is great on technical, rocky and steep terrain. This is a lower volume shoe with a narrow fit and many people size up. Features include deluxe heel pocket cushioning and reinforcement for a comfortable fit, an ultra sticky rubber outsole and toe cover and a nylon shank to protect your forefoot from sharp rocks. . They have impressive grip on rock, great traction on the trail and can also be used as an approach shoe. The narrow fit on this neutral trail running shoe means a very stable and predictable platform whether you are thru hiking the PCT or running a backcountry 50k.
Category: Moderate to Technical
Differential: 23 mm x 14 mm with a 9 mm drop
Upper: AirMesh / Synthetic Leather / TPU Lacing Harness / TPU Transkinetic Heel Stablizier
Outsole: FriXion XF / Impact Brake System X-Axis
The Salomon Wings Pro is one of our top selling shoes season after season. This is an impressive shoe that gives you confidence and stability running on every type of terrain. Fully featured to provide durability, protection and comfort so you can focus on the trail. The Wings Pro are very similar to the SLab Wings with more width and volume in the midfoot and toe area and some of the materials used in the upper. These differences increase the weight and durability of the Wings Pro 2 slightly more than the Slab Wings. The new Wings Pro 2 has built in arch support, a wider toe box, endo-fit inner sock liner for a great fit, welded sensifit overlay and a slightly wider last. They have removed the plastic chassis in front of the heel and solid rubber toecap that was used in previous versions of this shoe making for a great all around shoe. This shoe has a natural feel allowing for some moderate pronation, it also runs big so size down at least 1/2 a size. The Salomon Wings Pro 2 is an amazing shoe that provides great protection, traction and comfort.
Category: Moderate to Technical
Differential: 28 mm x 18 mm with a 10 mm drop
Upper: 3D Stretch Air Mesh with a welded sensi-fit overlay
Outsole: High abrasion ContraGrip and trapezoidal lugs, ProFeel Film for rock protection