There’s no questioning that when it comes to trail running, durability and support are the two most important factors to consider when choosing the right sneaker.
With this in mind, this year manufactures are continuing to place a focus on offering shoes that are sturdy and protective without adding extra weight. Because while you want to make sure you’ve got proper ankle support and underfoot protection when you hit the trails, its’ also important that your feet feel light, springy, and fast.
Trends haven’t changed much since last year, but our top trail-specific shoe picks for 2015 highlight some of the best updates and newcomers to the trail running shoe scene.
1. Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3
“Highly recommend these shoes if you are venturing off the pavement,” one runner wrote in an online review of these well-built trail shoes from Salomon. Outside Online says they’re one of the best “muck-ready” trail shoes of 2015, especially praising them for their Seamless Sensifit ™ technology, which they say makes the shoe feel like “a second skin.”
2. Merrell All Out Charge
With a snug, super-supportive upper that comfortably cradles the foot, this new model from Merrell is best for trail runners who appreciate a truly secure shoe. The main focus of the All Out Charge is durability, but thanks to Merrel’s signature Unifly™ underfoot cushioning it also provides a responsive ride with ample impact protection.
3. HOKA ONE ONE Mafate Speed
Trail runners in need of extra cushioning and shock absorption should opt for this shoe, which Outside Online says is the “plushiest trail shoe on the market.” Specifically designed for endurance trail running, this maximal shoe promises to provide a “fast but stable ride.”
4. Ecco Biom Trail FL Lite
For all of the stability and support that this Ecco trail model provides, it’s surprisingly lightweight. Featuring the brand’s signature BIOM NATURAL MOTION® technology, the Biom Trail FL Lite is designed to provide a flexible but “grippy” ride with cushioned protection you can rely on over any type of rugged terrain.
5. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX
“Not only were they a great fit and extremely comfortable, the traction on any surface, wet or dry, was crucial,” one online reviewer said of this ultra-protective sneaker. It features a GORE-TEX® upper, a full-length EVA midsole, a midfoot shank, and a rigid Snake Plate™ beneath the ball of the foot, all of which work together to provide the ultimate in protection, stability, and security no matter where the trail takes you.
6. Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2
Pearl Izumi says this trail shoe was designed to “meet the demands of the world’s most difficult ultras,” offering both traction and protection all packaged within a truly smooth ride. “[They] offer a lot protection from the ground while still returning lots of feedback and traction,” one runner wrote in an online review. “As for the combination of protection, fit, shoe weight, and responsiveness, I would rate it as ‘the best’ for a trail shoe,” said another.
P.S. Don’t forget: just like with all of our running shoe guides, use this list like a handbook and always head out to the store for a test run before you ultimately decide if a shoe is right for you.