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Best Trail Running Gaiters in 2022

 

Getting dirty is a big part of trail running. When you leave pavement behind, rocks, dirt, mud, sand, and water all become regular parts of your run.

While most trail runners revel in the elements of the trail, too much dirt, debris, and moisture can be a problem. From a rock in a shoe that forces you to stop, to sand in your shoe that causes irritation over time, to snow that melts and soaks your feet, an excess of mess can ruin a run.

When you’re running on the trail, you want to ensure that rocks, sand, dirt, and even snow don’t get into your shoes and cause blisters or discomfort.

Enter the running gaiter, a piece of fabric that covers the opening of your trail shoe to prevent unwanted items from getting into the shoe.

Of course, it’s essential that the running gaiter actually works, so it’s important to do your research to figure out what trail running gaiter is going to be best for you.

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low

 

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Heavy duty material
  • Drawstring for custom fit
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Ultimate Direction FK Gaiter

 

  • Comfortable yet sturdy
  • Durable understrap
  • Fits variety of shoes
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Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hybrid Gaiters

 

  • Gaiter moves comfortably with you
  • UPF 50+ protection
  • Shoelace hook to lock in the fit
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Best Overall

1. Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low

The Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low is a lightweight, low-profile gaiter that’s suitable for adventures in all seasons. It offers effective protection against debris and water while you’re on the trail.

What We Like

It’s light and nifty but does a great job of protecting your feet on the trail. It’s also comfortable, with asymmetrical zippers that are designed to prevent chafing against your ankle bone.

They’re great for just about any brand of shoe. You can get a close-to-custom fit thanks to the easy drawcord around the ankle, which forms a good seal to prevent stuff from getting inside it.

Once you’ve zipped it on and tightened as you wish around the ankle, there’s an adjustable TPU instep strap to get an even better fit. The strap is designed to be rounded rather than flat, which allows it to work better with any type of outsole.

A handy lace-hook helps to keep the fit tight and comfortable as you’re moving along the trail.

It’s both durable and breathable. The stretch-woven nylon fabric doesn’t tear easily, so you can expect to use this gaiter for a good long time on the trails without any worries of it wearing out.

The gaiter also features a DWR (durable water-repellent) finish, so whether you’re running in light rain or making your way through wet patches on the trail, your feet should stay quite warm and dry.

Despite this, it’s surprisingly breathable so your feet aren’t going to overheat while you’re running.

Why We Like It

The Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low is our top choice as it’s super effective for keeping your feet clean and dry on the trails. It offers all the features a trail runner or hiker needs in a gaiter, in a light, unobtrusive package.

Whether you’re running on dry, sandy trails or muddy, splashy ground, you can expect your feet to stay fairly clean and very dry when wearing these.

PROS:

  • Comfortable, adjustable elasticated drawcord
  • Thick, rounded TPU instep strap
  • Water beads up and rolls off the fabric
  • Lightweight, durable, breathable material

CONS:

  • No much space to tuck the remaining drawcord into
 

Most Adjustable

2. Ultimate Direction FK Gaiter

The Ultimate Direction FK gaiter is super adjustable, making it an excellent fit for just about any shoe you choose to wear.

What We Like

The FK gaiter comes in 3 different sizes, small, medium, and large. This is an excellent start for getting a good fit on your foot.

Once you’ve chosen the most appropriate size for you, it stretches closed easily over the foot, tightening securely with a Velcro strap and snap studs. This helps to prevent the kind of chafing that can often happen with a zipper.

A lace hook pulls the front down to provide better protection and tighten it properly. The best adjustability feature is the Hypalon rubber under-foot strap. It’s easy to adjust with T-hooks that fit right into the corresponding snaps on the upper.

This strap is flat and should fit easily in between the lugs of most trail running shoes. But they are exposed to the ground and the elements, so they may wear away quickly. However, they’re easy to replace, which really gives this gaiter an edge over others.

The synthetic material is strong and lasts a long time, but it’s also slightly stretchy. This contributes to the comfortable fit.

Why We Like It

This gaiter should be an excellent fit on any shoe. It’s a huge bonus that the straps are replaceable! This is unusual but it adds a whole lot to the lifespan of the gaiter.

If you choose this gaiter, it offers great protection and you can expect to be using it for a long time to come.

PROS:

  • Durable, stretchy fabric
  • Bottom lace hook and extra snap studs help keep it in place
  • Replaceable under-foot loop
  • Fits most trail running shoes

CONS:

  • Large size may not fit feet of size 13 or larger
 

Top Lightweight

3. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hybrid Gaiters

The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hybrid Gaiters are high-profile and extremely protective, but they’re light enough to feel natural and comfortable while they’re on your feet.

What We Like

The high-profile fit of these gaiters does a superb job of keeping debris, dust, and water out. This prevents you from getting dirty, wet, or chased from debris in your shoes.

While larger gaiters like these can be a little heavy on your feet, the Ferrosi remains surprisingly lightweight, which is great. Weighing around 1.8 ounces each, you’ll hardly even notice these on you as you run.

Note that they’re designed to be placed on your feet before you put your shoes on. They also work best with lower profile shoes, and may not fit so well on shoes with a high ankle collar.

Once it’s on your leg, attach the elasticated shoelace hook to your laces and run the long strap underneath your foot to get a tight but comfy fit.

The Ferrosi is a versatile gaiter. The moisture-wicking material keeps your feet cool and dry, and it uses ActiveIce technology which gives you a cooling effect as you sweat.

It also includes UPF 50+ sun protection, which is a nice little bonus that will protect your skin as you run in hot weather.

Why We Like It

Despite being lightweight, these gaiters are fairly durable. They use sturdy nylon and spandex in the ankle area, while the front of the foot consists of polyester and stretch material to allow for airflow through the shoe.

PROS:

  • Moisture-wicking fabric that provides a cooling effect
  • Gaiter moves comfortably with you
  • Includes UPF 50+ protection
  • Shoelace hook to lock in the fit

CONS:

  • May not fit so comfortably on shoes with a high ankle collar
 

Most Versatile

4. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Thru Gaiters

These versatile ultralight gaiters are designed for thru-hikers or trail runners.

They do a great job of keeping your feet safe from debris while repelling light splashes and protecting you from nasty breezes.

What We Like

The lightweight yet strong fabric makes these gaiters easy to use anywhere, in any weather. The Ferrosi fabric stretches slightly to offer the most comfortable fit while remaining extremely strong and durable in any external conditions.

It resists water like puddles and light rain to keep your feet as dry as possible. It also prevents sneaky gusts of wind from getting in and making your feet cold.

The material is also breathable enough to prevent overheating, abrasion-resistant for the best durability, quick-drying if they do get a little wet, and UPF 50+. Versatile enough for all forms of trail running and hiking!

The mid-calf length is perfect for running with both shorts and longer tights or sweatpants. A drawcord cinch closure at the top allows you to get a protective fit while still being comfortable.

There’s an easy-to-use shoelace clip, which attaches to the front of the shoe for the best coverage. Also, the instep strap is replaceable, which is extremely helpful.

Why We Like It

It’s versatile enough for all-weather wear, extremely lightweight, and easy to wear. Also, the replaceable strap is a big thumbs-up.

PROS:

  • Wind- and water-resistant
  • Quick-drying and abrasion-resistant material
  • Drawcord cinches at the top hem for a snug fit
  • Replaceable instep strap

CONS:

  • Some may feel that it’s too lightweight for robust hiking or trail running
 

Best for Snow and Ice

5. Kahtoola CONNECT Gaiter Mid

This hardcore gaiter is extremely protective and connects directly to Kahtoola’s ice and snow spikes on your shoes.

**Take note that you’ll need to purchase Kahtoola’s MICROspikes and NANOspikes separately.**

What We Like

The perfect fit with Kahtoola’s spikes make this gaiter a must-have if you use these spike systems. It eliminates the need for an underfoot strap, which automatically extends the lifespan of this gaiter as there’s no strap to wear away on each step.

Handy clips integrated into the gaiter attach directly to the harness of the ice and snow spike device. There are six clips around the foot, which provides a really good and solid fit around the whole foot.

The gaiter consists of a blend of nylon and polyester with a durable water-repellent finish. Discomfort due to ice and snow that make your feet cold or wet will be a thing of the past with these covers.

The zipper is also water-repellent and allows for easy foot entry. It closes above the ankle, so there’s no risk of chafing or hotspots. To ensure that no debris gets in from the top, an elasticated drawcord provides a snug fit.

Why We Like It

The gaiter is robust and a good height, very effective at keeping the wind, ice, and snow out. It’s a great choice for those who are already wearing the Kahtoola traction spikes.

PROS:

  • Fits securely to Nanospikes or MICROspikes
  • Easy entry with offset zipper above the ankle
  • Durable water-repellent finish
  • Top-adjustable elastic drawcord

CONS:

  • MICROspikes and NANOspikes sold separately, and they may not attach as easily to other spike systems
 

Top Above-the-Ankle Gaiter

6. Salomon Trail Gaiters High

Salomon makes top-quality outdoor stuff, so it makes sense that we’d have Salomon gaiters on this list! These are above-the-ankle length and are highly durable.

What We Like

This gaiter offers effective protection against the cold as well as bumps and bruises. With extra padding in the ankle area, you can be even more confident on the trails and not worry about scratching or bumping the ankle bones.

Over the ankles there are large Velcro attachments, which can fit a variety of foot sizes fairly easily. You can get a really nice snug wrap around our foot, which should hold well over all terrain.

A flat, strong underfoot strap wraps under the arch, holding the gaiter firmly to your foot. The downside is that this strap isn’t replaceable, so when it does wear through, you’ll need to buy a whole new gaiter.

The gaiter has reflective detailing across it so your fleet feet will be seen in all lighting conditions. It’s available in a range of colors and sizes.

Why We Like It

It’s a comfortable height for most trail runners and made from hardy materials. Plus, it’s made by a giant in the outdoor apparel industry, so you really can’t go wrong with it!

PROS:

  • Large Velcro attachment provides a snug fit
  • Protective ankle pads
  • Thick, wide rubber underfoot loop
  • Reflective detailing for low light visibility

CONS:

  • The rubber underfoot strap isn’t replaceable
  • Not water-resistant
 

Best Shoe with Built-in Gaiter

7. Salomon S/Lab Cross 2

If you’re in the market for new shoes as well as a gaiter, why not get both in one neat package?

The Salomon S/Lab Cross 2 shoe comes with a gaiter built-in, eliminating the need for a separate piece of equipment and removing problems that arise with traditional gaiters.

What We Like

The built-in gaiter, obviously! The shoe features an ankle-high sock-like fit, which hugs the ankle and removes the need for socks and a separate gaiter. Be aware, though, that this tight fit can make it a little difficult to get on and off.

This integrated gaiter removes some of the issues that come with a traditional gaiter. There’s no need for attachment points or it not fitting your shoe snugly. And possibly the biggest pro, you don’t need to worry about an underfoot strap wearing out on rough terrain.

Another big pro on these shoes is the grip. 6mm lugs on the Contagrip TA outsole provide exceptional grip on a variety of surfaces, especially loose, gravelly ground or muddy and debris-filled surfaces.

Salomon’s QuickLace system is present on this shoe, which helps you to get a really good fit of the upper to your foot. The upper itself is moisture-wicking, close-fitting, and contours to the foot, comfortable and effective.

As for the performance, it features EnergyCell+ foam in the midsole. This foam is soft enough to be comfortable, but it’s also got a good bit of energy return. You should find that it both cushions the foot comfortably and offers a decent spring on the trail, despite being fairly minimal.

Why We Like It

Apart from the obvious benefit of the built-in gaiter, this shoe offers everything a serious trail needs. Excellent cushioning, a bit of a spring, and traction that can handle every surface are its best qualities.

What’s New

Not much has changed between the original and the 2. The same technical features remain, but the upper has been redesigned to offer better breathability and lighter weight.

PROS:

  • Durable, supportive upper adapts to your foot
  • Integrated gator with woven, padded pods
  • Responsive EnergyCell+ midsole cushioning
  • Sticky rubber outsole with 6 mm lugs

CONS:

  • Maybe be a little tricky getting it on and off
 

Top for Topo Athletic Shoes

8. Topo Athletic Performance Gaiters

If you wear Topo Athletic trail running shoes, this gaiter is designed to work with them to provide a snug fit and the highest effectiveness against the elements.

What We Like

The unique 3-hook fastening system allows these gaiters to fit comfortably on Topo Athletic shoes. Two heel hooks fit right into special clips built into the shoe. There’s also a front hook that clips onto your laces.

These three anchor points keep it tight where it needs to be and secure no matter how much you move. A large piece of Velcro is the final attachment point.

The nylon material is lightweight and soft on the skin. It’s also slightly stretchy, which allows you to get a really snug fit. It can also be used on swollen feet quite easily.

Why We Like It

The low-profile design is unobtrusive and the material is soft and comfortable on your foot.

If you have Topo shoes, it makes perfect sense to buy a gaiter that works with them to provide the best fit and function.

PROS:

  • Low-profile design sits just above your ankle
  • Hook-and-loop closure makes it easy to put on and take off
  • Made from soft, stretchable material
  • Velcro strap for secure closure

CONS:

  • Can only be used with Topo Athletic trail shoes
  • Velcro may wear out quickly with use
 

Best for Altras

9. Altra Trail Gaiters

Altra gaiters are made for use with Altra shoes, but the good news is that you can use them with other shoes too. They’re sleek and easy to use, but best suited to warm weather running.

What We Like

The strapless design of this gaiter means you can change your shoes without having to take them off. That’s pretty handy!

It remains well-fitted thanks to a lace hook and a Velcro patch at the heel. These two points help the gaiter to attach firmly and stay in place when you’re speeding across the trail.

One of the greatest pros of this gaiter is that even though it’s designed specifically for Altra shoes, it includes an extra hook-and-loop bit to allow you to attach it to other non-Altra running shoes.

The stretch fabric moves easily with your foot, providing not only a snug fit but also a barely-there kind of feeling while you’re wearing it. It’s very breathable, which is why it’s best for hot weather.

The upper is also abrasion-resistant, being protected from the elements and debris while it’s protecting you.

Why We Like It

It’s light, it’s hardly there, but it does its job well. For running in the heat, this thin fabric gaiter is ideal, as it not only allows for ventilation but it also gives you space to take your shoes off without needing to remove the gaiter.

PROS:

  • Stretchy fabric moves with you
  • Reinforced around the lace hook
  • Lightweight and packs down small
  • Can be used with other brands of trail shoes

CONS:

  • These gaiters aren’t waterproof
 

Top for Salomons

10. Salomon Trail Gaiters Low

Light and easy to wear, the Salomon Trail Gaiters Low provide effective protection without annoying your shins.

They fit perfectly on Salomon shoes, but can also be used on other shoe brands.

What We Like

These gaiters are sleek and look quite minimalist, although they provide more than adequate protection. Their low-profile design has them just covering the ankles, offering some protection against knocks as well as keeping debris out.

There’s no lace hook on these shoes, which works for Salomons as they don’t have a traditional lacing system. To stay secure, they use a large Velcro patch and a rubber underfoot strap (which isn’t replaceable, unfortunately).

This gaiter is minimalist and feels like it’s part of your shoe. The low-profile fit is unobtrusive and won’t chafe or annoy the skin as you move.

Large, thick outsole straps keep it securely on your feet. There’s also a reflective logo so you can be seen in all lighting conditions.

Why We Like It

This gaiter is light, easy to wear, and perfect for any kind of shoe. Protect your ankle bones from bumps and your feet from debris at the same time.

PROS:

  • Will easily fit most trail running shoes
  • Breathable and flexible material that moves with you
  • Protective padding around the ankle bones
  • Rugged rubber underfoot strap

CONS:

  • May not fit as great on other shoes as there’s no lace hook
  • The rubber strap underneath isn’t replaceable
 

Buyers Guide – Trail Running Gaiters

If you’re planning on investing in trail running gaiters, you need to know what to look for.

Check out this quick little buyer’s guide to help you shop for the right trail running gaiter for your needs.

Height – Low, Mid, High

Gaiters come in 3 different heights, so choosing which height is best for you is the first step.

Are you okay with a low-profile gaiter that just protects your shoes from debris, dust, and water?

Would you prefer a mid-height gaiter that offers slightly more protection? Generally, high gaiters are used in deep snow or for hiking through rough terrain, but if you want ultimate protection, a high gaiter will do the trick.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to consider comfort too. A low gaiter might be more comfortable for most than a high one, so it might be a good idea to try the different heights before committing to one.

Adjustability

The gaiter you choose should be able to adjust easily to your shoes and ankle to provide a good fit. If it doesn’t conform to the shape of your shoe, it’s not going to be able to do its job properly.

Make sure to try it on properly when you’re shopping. Adjust it just as you would do if you were getting ready to head out on the trail. If it fits well and can be adjusted to your needs, then it gets the thumbs-up.

Material

The fabric the gaiter is made out of should be durable and, if possible, water-resistant. Water-resistant fabric will protect your shoes and feet if you run through a puddle or take a run in the snow.

Attachment Points

Your gaiter needs to attach to your shoes to prevent it from falling off while you’re on the trail. It also helps to provide a better fit.

Make sure the attachment points give you a good fit over your shoe. It should conform to your foot, not bulge strangely anywhere or be difficult to attach.

Shoe Compatibility

Some gaiters are built for certain shoes. For example, an Altra gaiter will fit perfectly on your Altra shoe, but if you wear a different shoe brand, chances are it’s not going to fit quite as well.

It’s worth checking if your shoe brand makes their own gaiters. If not, you can definitely find universal fit gaiters, but make sure you’re not buying one that’s designed specifically for another brand.

FAQs

Got questions about the best trail running gaiters? Here’s some more information to help you choose the right one for you.

Why Do Hikers & Trail Runners Wear Gaiters?

Gaiters are invaluable bits of gear for trail runners and hikers. They help to keep debris, dirt, water – plus snow and ice in the winter – from getting inside the shoe, which could be annoying or cause chafing.

Can You Wear Gaiters With Hiking Shoes?

Absolutely! Every gaiter on this list can be worn with hiking shoes as well as running shoes.

It’s still a good idea to try it on with your hiking shoes and make sure it fits properly before buying it, though.

Will Gaiters Keep Water Out?

Most gaiters will keep water from soaking your feet if you run through a puddle, but won’t keep you dry if you submerge your feet in water.

They’ll also help to prevent snow from getting inside your shoes in winter.

Shanna Powell

Shanna Powell

Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.

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