2013 Summer Trail Running Shoe Review

Check out these great Trail Running Shoes for going off-roading this summer!

Innovative materials and weight-saving design elements — standard fare in your favorite road runners — are now being used to make lighter trail running shoes with long wearing uppers, sticky soles and energetic rides. Whether you’re seeking full flexibility for cruising on smooth trails or maximum proprioception as you channel your inner mountain goat, these 12 new trail fiends will inspire you to hit the dirt and crank out some miles.

Weights listed per shoe are for men’s size 9.0 and women’s size 7.0.

La Sportiva Anakonda, $125

Category: Rugged Mountain Runner

Weight: 10.0 oz (men’s, unisex sizing)

Height off the ground: 18mm (heel); 14mm (forefoot)

FIT: This new model ran true to length with a stout heel cup and slim fit through the midfoot and toe box.

FEEL: Built for running fast and nimbly on steep, technical terrain, the Anakonda feels low to the ground, with a thin layer of midfoot cushioning for a smooth underfoot sensation despite rather beefy outsole lugs. A full-length flexible rock plate offers some underfoot protection and a little firmness, but definitely not enough to inhibit the shoe’s natural-flexing demeanor.

RIDE: You’ll devour rocks and mud (and anything else you encounter) for hours in these grippy trail fiends. Multi-directional treads and an easy-flexing chassis make for secure footing, even in wet and muddy conditions, and the solid TPU heel counter provides protection in loose scree.

Mammut MTR 201 Dyneema, $159

Category: Rugged Mountain Runner

Weight: 10.5 oz (men’s); 7.9 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 17.0mm (heel); 8.0mm (forefoot)

**Best New Model — Competitor’s Spring 2013 Wear-Test**

FIT: This new model serves up a medium fit through the midfoot and has comfortable (but not roomy) volume in the toe box, while the pull-tight lacing system allows for a cinched-down fit.

FEEL: If you like a bit of comfort out on the trails — namely a little bit of cushion, a mid-range heel-toe slope and a soft, foam heel bumper — look no further. The virtually indestructible Dyneema upper (same fabric Mammut uses for climbing harnesses and slings) breathes well and doesn’t overheat on hot desert runs.

RIDE: With an aggressive, grippy tread — even when wet — and stout toe bumper, these hardrock avengers give a burly mountain experience in a responsive ride. The unique flared-heel tread design enhances ground contact and confidence without getting in the way of an agile runner’s normal gait. A few testers said they would have liked a bit more stiffness and underfoot rock protection in order to consider this the ultimate mountain running shoe and rock hopper, but most testers still gave the Dyneema high overall marks.

Dynafit Feline Ghost, $130

Category: Rugged Mountain Runner

Weight: 9.2 oz (men’s); 8.5 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 29.5mm (heel); 18.5mm (forefoot)

**Best Traction Award — Competitor’s Spring 2013 Wear-Test**

FIT: This sleek, low-profile shoe has a secure, narrow fit from heel to toe.

FEEL: Initially this model felt super-firm, almost hard, but testers concluded there was just enough cushion, and welcomed the secure heel cup and arch plate.

RIDE: The Ghost is all business when it comes to tackling the trails, and the gnarlier the better. It turns out the initial firmness results in a responsive, trail-gripping run. Traction was impressive in most conditions, but the sole did get noticeably firmer in cold weather and subsequently lost some grip on wet rocks.

Brooks PureGrit 2, $110

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 10.0 oz (men’s); 8.2 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 21mm (heel); 16mm (forefoot)

**Most Improved Model — Competitor’s Spring 2013 Wear-Test**

FIT: With a wrapped tongue and asymmetrical lacing, the second version of the PureGrit  has a semi-custom, Cinderella-slipper fit from end to end.

FEEL: If a shoe can feel happy, this one does. Its low-slung design keeps you close to the ground, but not too close, thanks to the dreamy combination of soft and semi-soft foam layers in the midsole. The asymmetrical lacing provides good arch stability and the ability to find a reliable synergy between foot, shoe and trail.

RIDE: Hugging turns, jumping over obstacles and bounding down a slippery, muddy road is a blast in these energetic runners. Testers familiar with the first version of the PureGrit liked the improved, diamond-treaded outsole pattern and felt confident in their footing, while others were drawn to the rounded heel design and adequate heel cushion for handling on-the-go stride changes.

Karhu Flow Trail, $120

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 9.0 oz (men’s); 7.5 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 16mm (heel); 8mm (forefoot)

FIT: The snug fitting heel pocket has two foam pods in the heel collar to prevent slippage, and opens into a medium fit through the forefoot and toe.

FEEL: With moderate cushioning and good flexibility, testers liked these comfortable runners for road to trail and less-technical outings

RIDE: Heel strikers noted a smooth riding, easy heel-to-toe transition, and, while the multi-directional, grippy lugs were up to a variety of trail challenges, a lack of rock protection left some forefoot runners with hot spots.

Skechers GObionic Trail, $80

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 8.0 oz (men’s); 6.8 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 19mm (heel); 15mm (forefoot)

FIT: With a roomy fit from heel to toe, wider-footed runners can stride in comfort.

FEEL: The GObionic Trail has a light and airy, unhindered design, with plenty of underfoot cushion, for a maximum minimalist feel. Infinitely flexible like Skechers road running shoes, this shoe feels like a road racing flat that’s been beefed up with a luggy outsole. The 4mm drop can be converted to a zero-drop platform by removing the built-up insole.

RIDE: These ate up the miles on roads, cinder and gravel trails and gentle rollers with an energetic, easy-striding ride. Rock hitchhikers couldn’t hold onto the super-bendable sole and a reinforced toe box provided protection from the occasional scrape and scuff.

Inov-8 Roclite 243, $120

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 8.6 oz (men’s, unisex sizing)

Height off the ground: 16mm (heel); 15mm (forefoot)

FIT:  This shoe has a trim fit from heel to midfoot, with just enough room in the low-volume toe box for toes to spread.

FEEL: This shoe was born to burn, with a feel that is firm, low-to-the-ground and almost flat. Bottom line: this is a no-nonsense, lightweight trainer. “I feel fast,” said one tester. “Not much there, but that’s OK on most trails,” said another.

RIDE: Grippy traction and stout lugs allow this shoe to grab when you want to rock your favorite mud run, or, as one tester commented, “like a Jeep on your feet.” A sliver of foam protects if you need to heel strike, but it’s a very tactile ride and performs best with light-footed, agile runners.

New Balance MT 910 v1, $110

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 10.3 oz (men’s); 8.2 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 26mm (heel); 19mm (forefoot)

FIT: A new model with an accessible fit for a lot of runners, the 910 runs wide from heel to toe, with generous midfoot height for higher volume feet.

FEEL: Testers liked the combination of cushion, comfort and flexibility in this shoe. Although it’s a neutral model and more cushioned than many trail shoes, the moderate heel-toe drop offers a hint of agility and stability, while the firm heel cup adds structure and a more secure sensation on all types of trails.

RIDE: Cushioned, easy-riding comfort with underfoot rock protection make this shoe runnable for long trail hauls, but equally possible for road jaunts. Narrow-footed testers felt the wider fit lacked nimbleness on the trail, but those who needed the volume were thrilled about the fit and ride.

Patagonia EVERmore, $110

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 7.8 oz (men’s); 6.3 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 17mm (heel); 13mm (forefoot)

FIT: The midfoot can be snugged up, but overall, this shoe fits comfortably wide throughout with a roomy toe box to match.

FEEL: One tester suggested the EVERmore felt like a “stout minimalist shoe,” meaning it offers a blend of lightweight, low-profile construction with the added bonus of some arch support and a stable running platform.

RIDE: Sticky treads and a super-flexible outsole made for sprightly running on rolling trails and switchbacks. A forefoot pad offers some rock 
protection, but testers liked these best for road-to-trail running, cruising on moderate terrain and less gnarly outings.

Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1, $115

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 9.6 oz (men’s); 8.7 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 23mm (heel); 16mm (forefoot)

**Most Versatile Model — Competitor’s Spring 2013 Wear-Test**

FIT: A medium-width heel snugs up through the midfoot and opens into a roomy, but not-too-voluminous, toe box.

FEEL: Testers loved this model for its familiar, easy-flexing road-shoe feel. Most raved about its versatility, while one specifically noted the seamless, stretch-mesh toe box design allowed his toes to “feel free” and allow for uninhibited running on most types of terrain.

RIDE: The Trail N1 is decidedly smooth and sublime, like a lightweight road shoe only with trail-oriented traction and some protection against sidewall scuffing. Testers lauded the rocker design for its smooth footstrike and toe-off and welcomed the balance of responsiveness and underfoot protection. “A shoe I could run in all day,” gushed one tester. Moderate, multi-direction treads made for a breezy transition from roads to dirt to mud and the minimal rock plate added just enough stiffness and protection to make them ideal for medium to long runs.

The North Face Ultra Guide, $110

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 9.6 oz (men’s); 8.3 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 23mm (heel); 15mm (forefoot)

FIT: A narrow heel holds the foot securely and opens up into a medium forefoot and toe box.

FEEL: All of our testers appreciated the interior plushness of this shoe and neutral runners appreciated the ample cushioning and adequate support from the firm heel counter. However, a lack of structure left stability-seeking runners wanting a bit more.

RIDE:  Soft, multi-directional treads give a consistent ride on mixed surfaces, offering what one tester suggested was a “springy feel.” It feels a lot like a well-cushioned road shoe, which is why our test team found its sweet spot on smooth to moderate hard-packed routes. A forefoot snake plate keeps rock pops and stingers to a minimum without adding torsional stiffness.

Tevashpere Trail, $120

Category: Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 9.4 oz (men’s); 8.1 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 23mm (heel); 19mm (forefoot)

FIT: The Tevasphere Trail has a narrow fit throughout, but with more volume in the toe box than it’s slim fit would suggest.

FEEL: Testers commented that their heels nestled into the shoe for a secure feel, and the two unique midfoot “support pods” give some arch support and a stable underfoot platform.

RIDE: Firm was the first word that came to mind regarding the ride and testers were initially very aware of the support pods. Out on the trail, the firmness resulted in a responsive ride and the pods gave sound lateral stability. These weren’t the best for road to trail, but, once they hit the dirt, they were able to handle a mixed bag of trail conditions.

Montrail FluidFlex, $90

Category: Light & Fast

Weight: 7.6 oz (men’s); 6.1 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 21mm (heel); 16 mm (forefoot)

FIT: A snug-fitting heel with a high heel collar opens up for a roomy fit through the toe. (Runners might need to go down half a size for the best fit.)

FEEL: Flexible cushioning and a barely-there upper make for an all-around light and airy shoe sensation. The FluidFlex feels somewhat like a low-slung road running shoe but with just enough trail-specific features (including a reinforced toe bumper and durable mesh upper) to offer a connected-to-the-ground sensation on dirt, gravel and rocks.

RIDE: Light, fast and low to the ground, the FluidFlex blends a little bit of cushioning with a lot of get-up-and-go. Small, multi-directional lugs on the heel and forefoot offer good traction on moderate trails without impacting gait on easy trails or roads. The minimalist upper design worked best for neutral runners with good mechanics. “These had a nimble and fast ride, akin to a trail racing flat,” said one tester, who liked the FluidFlex for mixed pavement and trail runs.

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra, $180

Category: Light & Fast

Weight: 7.5 oz (men’s, unisex sizing)

Height off the ground: 19mm (heel); 14mm (forefoot)

FIT: A cinch-tight, narrow fit through the heel and midfoot opens to a low-volume, but slightly wider toe box.

FEEL: Dynamic is the best one-word description for the mixture of close-to-the-ground ride, underfoot cushioning and just enough heel-to-toe drop to encourage you forward in your stride.

RIDE: Designed with agile, forefoot runners in mind, changing trail conditions and exhaustion can throw off even the most consistent strides. So, Salomon added in full-foot traction, forefoot rock protection and enough heel cushion to give these shoes the chops to handle forefoot landing, heel strikes, rocks and roots. The wide forefoot platform made for confident toe-offs, and helped encourage a light and fast stride.

Saucony Kinvara TR2, $100

Category: Light & Fast

Weight: 7.8 oz (men’s); 6.8 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 16.5mm (heel); 12.5mm (forefoot)

FIT: The gusseted tongue of the Kinvara TR2 locks down the foot with a sock-like fit, giving a snug, performance-oriented fit from heel to toe.

FEEL: The new version of the Kinvara is more flexible than the original, thanks to lighter, stronger and more pliable upper materials and the replacement of the plastic rock plate with a new nylon mesh insert. It doesn’t feel like a “barely there” minimalist shoe, but instead like a smartly designed semi-firm racing flat that offers just enough protection, cushion, traction and support to let you run as fast as possible without inhibitions.

RIDE: When you step into the Kinvara TR2, you realize there isn’t much between your feet and the ground — just a thin layer of cushioning, a low-profile rubber outsole and the helpful plate — but that’s a good thing because it really puts your feet in control. With nothing to get in the way of your stride, this shoe lets you run as nimbly and naturally as possible.

New Balance Minimus 10v2 Trail, $110

Category: Light & Fast

Weight: 6.2 oz (men’s); 4.9 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 12.5mm (heel); 8.5mm (forefoot)

FIT: A foot cradling, slim fit from the heel through midfoot opens into a wide toe box for unrestricted toe splaying.

FEEL: Built like a trail moccasin for the fleet of feet, the NB Minimus 10v2 has a smooth, performance oriented fit, with just enough upper and under-foot protection and a breathe of cushion for comfort. These are sheer bliss when worn without socks and have an antimicrobial treatment to combat stinky shoes.

RIDE: Testers loved the zippy, low-slung ride of the Minimus for darting over and around trail obstacles. Solid ground contact gave the proprioception needed to make foot fall adjustments on the fly for nimble trail hopping.

Altra Lone Peak 1.5, $115

Category: Rugged Mountain Runner/Versatile Cruiser

Weight: 9.9 oz (men’s); 8.9 oz (women’s)

Height off the ground: 23mm (men’s); 22mm (women’s)

FIT: Comfort is key when it comes to Lone Peak’s generous, yet secure fit from heel to forefoot, with a roomy toe box designed to let toes be free.

FEEL: Two layers of EVA foam partnered with midfoot rock protection, feel good under foot – not too hard, not too squishy – and still allow for trail awareness without the need to become intimate with every jagged rock edge. For those who tried the first Lone Peak, an updated mesh upper design in the 1.5 delivers the welcome addition of more lateral stability.

RIDE: You can feel like a kid again and run for the fun of it, without giving thought to stride or terrain, and be confident in these trail blasters – “they feel like Hobbit feet,” enthused one tester (that’s a good thing when it comes to tackling gnarly trails). A grippy outsole keeps you secure on rocks and scree, with smallish lugs that also run smooth on crushed gravel and hard-pack trails. The built in gaiter grip is a thoughtful addition for those who like to tackle dust and sand and a reinforced toe box protects tootsies from missteps.

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For more about what running shoe is right for you, click here.

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