The fall season is the perfect time to get off the road and hit the trails. Crisp air, cooler temps, changing leaves and clear skies just beg for adventures on dirt, wood chips or pine needles. We scoured the season’s latest trail running shoe offerings—from weather-protecting hard chargers to road-to-trail hybrids—and tested them mile after mile on trails in Colorado, California and New Hampshire to help you find your perfect pair.
Why Trail Shoes?
Yes, you can run trails in your road shoes. But the off-road-specific features found on these shoes enhance your running experience on the trails. Here’s how:
TRACTION. Trail running shoe outsoles often feature toothy multi-directional lugs and/or sticky rubber to keep you surefooted on any surface.
PROTECTION. Toe bumpers (extra material reinforcing the toe area) and reinforced sidewalls (the sides of the shoe, at your arch and exterior midfoot) will keep your foot protected from rocks and roots.
ARMOR. Some trail running shoes have thin, hard rubber rockplates sandwiched between the midsole and outsole to keep rocks and roots from jabbing your feet.
STABILITY. The uppers of trail running shoes tend to be more supportive than road shoes, encasing your foot more securely to keep you in control uphill, downhill and on off-camber trails.