If running through the woods, over twisted roots, under branches, on gravel, uphill, downhill and on single tracks is your thing, you're going to need a pair of running shoes that can tackle this technical terrain.
We've pulled together a list of the best trail running shoes of 2021 to help you get the most out of every run, on or off the beaten track.
Do you need different shoes for trail running?
We often get asked if you can wear road running shoes on the trail and vice versa. The answer is yes. However, off-road trail shoes offer added stability, traction, and protection.
When buying trail running shoes, it's important to factor in the type of terrain you'll mainly be running. If you're going to be running difficult, steep, technical trails you'll need shoes with deep lugs (indentations or grooves that provide grip) whereas, if you're more of a woodland, singletrack runner with the occasional road you may be best going for a hybrid style shoe.
How should trail running shoes fit?
Should you buy trail running shoes a size bigger? Is it better for running shoes to be tight or loose? This can depend on the brand of your running shoes and the style of your running, including whether you overpronate, underpronate or are neutral. Generally speaking, your running shoes should be between half and one size bigger than your regular shoes as your feet swell when you run. Trail running/fell running shoes should fit snugly around the middle of your foot to ensure you are stable with each step.
Not sure your running style or fit? Replicate an in-store assessment virtually with our running and trail shoe tool, 'My Run Shoe Finder'.
Hoka One One's latest creation is not only lightweight (199g) and breathable, but they have nailed the specific features of a trail shoe. There is a 'toe bumper' to protect you when running over uneven ground and the sole is finished with a Vibram™ Litebase so that you have got traction whatever the weather. The shoe has been designed for shorter distance off-road runs in mind and offers cushioning to absorb the impact of each stride.
Those looking for a running shoe to wear over medium distances and technical terrain, look no further. This bright shoe is known for its stability and will secure your feet precisely and easily with the lace dial. This shoe weighs 315g so although not as lightweight as some of its rivals, provides more structure and support and therefore very shock absorbing. The sole has deep lugs so is particularly grippy in slippery mud and is praised for grip especially when running downhill.
The upper of the Altra Olympus 4 is extremely breathable so you're feet don't overheat, sweat and therefore rub during your run. The sole is also made from Vibram®, which is the ideal combination of foam and rubber giving runners springiness and cushioning as well as durability and grip. Weighing in at 272g - it doesn't feel too heavy with each step, and the zero-drop construction means your heel and forefoot are placed at the same distance from the ground making for a comfortable low impact run.
If your run route will consist of uneven rocks, gravel and hard ground the Inov-8 TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX Trail Shoes will provide you cushioning, with a sole that flexes and adapts when needed. The sole is also made from Graphene so will grip even the most slippery surfaces. This trail shoe weighs 300g and is great for long distances with a great energy return.
Another fantastic trail shoe for those who run longer miles, the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra was designed and tested with help from Tom Evans, the professional ultra-distance trail runner. The midsole is well cushioned to take the impact of uneven footing that you typically find on trail runs, but it also delivers a great energy return to keep you springy and fast during longer outings. The shoes weigh 245g and feel lightweight thanks to their breathable material on the upper.