The Best Trail Running Shoes for Men in 2018
Because trail running offers a softer and more forgiving surface than pavement, runners may not realize that their footwear isn’t sufficient for the demands of the trail. Trail running earns athletes positive benefits for both mind and body, and it often feels different than running on the street. But having the right equipment is crucial to avoid injury and keep running comfortable.
Here are the best trail running shoes for men that can help your jog, race, or marathon proceed more smoothly.
Brooks Cascadia 12
The Cascadia 12 follows a line of Brooks trail shoes that aim to provide responsiveness and comfortable cushioning for trail runners. With a 10mm midsole drop and neutral support, the 12 accommodates most runners with medium to high arches.
Great traction keeps you steady on the trail, and most runners appreciate the generous amount of padding Brooks uses in the Cascadia line. In comparison with other Brooks trail runners, the toe box is relatively wide, but could still be too narrow for some wearers.
An overall life expectancy of 300 to 500 miles means most runners will get a maximum of six months out of each pair with everyday use. However, exact mileage can vary depending on trail conditions and foot anatomy.
Overall, as a comprehensive trail running shoe, the only drawback to the Cascadia 12 is its lack of waterproofing. However, the mesh outer that allows water in also allows your feet to dry quickly, so for many runners, it’s a decent tradeoff.
- Removable sock liner
- Full-length cushion midsole
- Environmentally-friendly midsole materials
- Relatively large toe box
- Mesh outer allows water in
- Relatively low heel height
- Only comes in medium width
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4
A foam midsole with Zoom Air units gives comfortable feedback on potentially rough trails. The tiny “air bags” support the foot without putting too much material between the ground and your feet.
Keep your footing sure with the exaggerated “lugs”- a waffle-shaped sole keeps you from slipping. While some wearers may find the rubber sole distracting, it does have exceptional traction when it comes to variable trail surfaces.
The upper mesh, which Nike calls “Flymesh,” lets feet breathe and keeps the shoes lightweight. While your feet might get wet as a result, the breathability will help them dry in any conditions.
There’s also a top cap to protect your feet on the trail, but that may prove a drawback if you wear the Terra Kiger 4’s in the gym or elsewhere.
- Exceptional traction thanks to the “waffle” sole
- Flywire cables help keep runners balanced
- Lightweight at just under ten ounces (a men’s size 10)
- 4mm heel-toe drop
- Slightly smaller toe box than prior models
- Zoom Air “bags” feel lumpy to some wearers
- Shoe tongue falls a little short
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4
A breathable mesh upper keeps runners comfortable, but the eye-catching design is probably the most noticeable feature of the Challenger ATR 4. Hoka One One maintains that these trail runners can handle both trails and roads, plus any other surface you decide to tackle. A toe guard area offers protection from trail obstacles, increasing the overall durability of this pair.
Just looking at the Challengers, the amount of cushioning is clearly visible. Along with interior cushioning, there’s also a 4mm lug sole that gives impressive traction. Plus, the Meta-Rocker helps propel runners forward, but with less bulk than other types of athletic rockers.
According to Hoka One One’s ratings, the Challenger ATR 4 offers neutral stability and balanced cushion. However, runners who are unfamiliar with the rocker design may find it difficult to adjust to. Overall, the shoe can feel bulky, although it’s lightweight for the features it packs.
- Lightweight at around nine ounces (men’s size 9)
- 5mm heel-toe drop
- Soft ride without the squishy feeling of other foam soles
- Sole treads use glue rather than solid construction, can lead to “flapping” soles
Asics GT-2000 6 Trail
With gel cushioning systems, Asics’ GT-2000 6 Trail aims for both comfort and performance. The cushioning helps absorb impact but also supports movement through each gait cycle. At the midsole, Flytefoam uses “organic super fibers” to maintain responsiveness as you move.
Supportive and forgiving foam helps cushion both neutral positioning and overpronation of the feet, accommodating normal to low arches and runners with flat feet. And although the cushioning is substantial, it’s sturdy and reactive rather than plush and squishy.
Between the high-density foam midsole and the gel cushioning system, there’s little opportunity for blistering or rubbing. Plus, high-abrasion rubber outsoles add durability on the exterior of the GT-2000 6 Trail running shoes. Still, the overall focus is on responsiveness and comfort, making these one of the best trail running shoes for men.
- Effectively supports neutral and over-pronation
- Exceptional cushioning throughout the entire sole
- Lightweight overall, given the amount of cushioning, at 11.1 ounces
- Not ideal for under-pronators
- Relatively high 10mm heel-toe drop
Saucony Peregrine 8
Despite the multiple acronyms involved, Saucony’s Peregrine 8 is clear about two things: comfort and traction.
It starts with the outsole, which Saucony calls the PWRTRAC. Its high-profile gripping nubs give great grip, although the look is a little severe. They’re tacky (in a positive way) and abrasion-resistant, giving you ultimate control over the trail. The grip may look severe, but you’ll be thankful for the depth of the traction on rough and rocky surfaces.
Inside, the Peregrine 8 uses a PWRFOAM midsole that concentrates on the rebound as your feet hit the ground. Saucony promises smoother landings and stronger takeoff, and the foam falls into their “firm and responsive” class.
Breathable mesh makes these a top choice for warmer climate running, although they’ll drain well in wet conditions, too. A toe cap offers protection against trail hazards, but depending on the fit of this somewhat narrow shoe, your toes may not hit the cap area.
Extra cushioning is helpful for reducing pain from plantar fasciitis in trail runners, and the traction and stability help add a level of confidence to walking and running activities.
- Caters to neutral pronation
- Normal to mid arch support
- Lightweight at about ten ounces
- 4mm heel-to-toe offset
- Limited width options
Salomon Speedcross 4
Salomon boasts a “monster grip” with the Speedcross 4, and we don’t plan to argue. These trail running shoes almost have a baseball cleat-like look, with deep traction nubs that are ideal for mud and other trail conditions.
At the same time, the Speedcross 4 is lightweight at just over ten ounces. That’s thanks to the OrthoLite sockliner, which uses a unique foam plus an EVA heel cup. The OrthoLite uses recycled tires to create a responsive and supportive cushioned surface for your heel, and it keeps thing drier and cooler, too.
The entire midsole and liner use EVA for a close fit and cushion support, but the drawback to these features is the fact that the shoes are relatively narrow. A narrower toe box makes the Speedcross 4’s unsuitable for people with wider feet and toes that need room to splay. In fact, the toe box on the 4 is nearly half an inch narrower than the Speedcross 3.
Around the base of the Speedcross 4, a mud guard offers some protection against seepage. While most trail runners use a toe cap, the mud guard is a unique feature that helps with wet and mucky conditions.
- Lightweight at just over ten ounces
- Molded fit holds heels and midsoles snugly
- Ideal for wet and muddy conditions
- Ideal for mud but not great on hard packed trails or mixed pavement
Altra Lone Peak 3.5
While their look is distinctive, if you can get past the visual, Altra’s Lone Peak 3.5s might be the versatile trail running shoes you’ve been looking for. Altra notes that they’re best for hiking, trail running, and backpacking, and we’d have to agree.
A wide toe box is the top feature for these odd-looking shoes, ideal for the natural splaying of toes no matter how wide or narrow your feet are. Just look at the underside of the shoes, and you’ll see the difference between these and your previous toe-cramping sneakers.
Overall, the Lone Peaks are ready for any obstacle, and their durability is evident in the minimal seam abrasion-resistant mesh construction. While they’re “Mid Mesh,” there’s also a “trap” that keeps out dirt, dust, sand, and more. The mesh is breathable, but you won’t have dirt-covered socks at the end of a messy run.
Durable rubber outsoles, aptly named “TrailClaw,” help you get a grip, and the hiking boot style gives ankle protection that you won’t see in other trail running shoes.
- Zero-drop platform
- Wide toe box to support natural toe splay
- Gaitertrap for easily attached gaiter
- Styling may not appeal to all runners
- Relatively heavy at 12.5 ounces
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v3
The exceptional grip and stability of a Vibram sole join with bootie-style construction that molds to each runner’s feet. While the drop is higher than you might expect from a Vibram-styled trail running shoe, the flexibility and sizing options of the Hierro v3s make them a strong contender.
The HypoSkin upper helps shape to runners’ feet while allowing for natural movement, and the sock-like fit keeps debris out. Inside, Fresh Foam keeps feet dry and comfortable while cushioning every step.
While two width options mean to accommodate runners with normal to wide feet, note that the Hierro v3s are significantly narrower than previous versions. Despite the accommodating Vibram sole, the uppers prove too narrow for many runners that are looking for more room for natural toe splay.
That said, the no-sew materials help avoid irritating seams that can cause blisters with a too-tight fit. At the same time, the sock fit maintains a snug fit but stays flexible throughout your run.
- Two width options (standard and wide)
- Vibram MegaGrip outsole for traction
- Seam-free construction
- Flexible upper
- Relatively heavy at 11.6 ounces
- 8mm toe-to-heel drop
- Relatively narrow compared to previous Hierro versions
Hoka One One Speedgoat 2
With a name like Speedgoat, you can expect something a little different with Hoka One One’s trail running shoes. Along with an array of eye-catching color options, the Speedgoat 2 includes all the features you need to tackle the trail.
A wide midsole and wider toe box helps maintain stability and keeps toes comfortable, plus reinforced areas promote durability. Vibram lugs make up the outsole, giving grip on a variety of trail conditions.
Midfoot cage construction assists with stability, while mesh keeps everything breathing nicely. The EVA midsole offers cushion and a custom fit for every wearer. Shock absorption is also a trait that comes with EVA foam.
For vibrant and responsive runs, the Speedgoat 2 is a top pick for best trail running shoes for men.
- Vibram lugs
- Midfoot cage for stability
- Lightweight at under ten ounces
- 4.5mm heel-to-toe drop
- A brief break-in period required to loosen up tight-fitting mesh
- Narrow tongue can cause discomfort depending on fit
Salomon Sense Ride
Profeel Film, a unique Salomon feature, helps support a runner’s feet during toe off. This increases stability and consistency, making your gait more effective. There’s also an OrthoLite sockliner, which supports the heel and adds cushioning.
Although Salomon suggests the Sense Rides for multiple weather conditions, they’re better-suited to drier trail conditions. That said, the traction grip helps you maintain sure footing in slippery conditions. Inside, an Endofit internal sleeve helps “hug” your feet, improving feedback.
The mesh exterior helps promote breathability and allows for quick drying in damp conditions. Speed laces keep things convenient, reducing the time it takes you to suit up before a run. A glove-like fit helps tailor the shoes to every foot type, plus allows for adjustments on-trail as feet expand.
Further, VIBE technology uses a unique assembly method plus responsive materials that help reduce the impact on your body with each step. For shock absorption and an accommodating fit, Salomon’s Sense Rides are one of the best trail running shoes for men.
- Lightweight at under ten ounces
- Internal fit sleeve
- Wide toe box
- Sticky rubber on rocks
- Not ideal for wet trail conditions