Trail running shoes continue to evolve as more research is done on what runners need and want out of their shoes. And nowadays, they’re even more impressive than their early predecessors, offering better upper comfort and security, lighter weights, more energetic rides, all-terrain traction and smoothers runs. Like any good trail runner, we know that having a handful at your disposal for all kinds of conditions is pretty important. This year, we began testing a few of the latest offerings on the market and found five standouts to add to your shoe closet. Here are a few trail running kicks that we’re loving right now:
Salomon XA Elevate
Weight: 10.4 oz. (US 9M); 9 oz. (US 7W)
Stack Height: 25mm/17mm (8mm drop)
Price: $130; available now
The Salomon XA Elevate excels at the extremes and is the most versatile of the shoes tested. It is stable, secure and highly-protective when terrains force more hiking than running. However, it also excels on smoother, flatter trails and could even be used on the road. The dual density midsole with substantial rock protection is on the firm side, but not excessively so. The shoe is also responsive and smooth when running on moderate terrain, and its outsole and 5mm lugs provide reliable traction on all surfaces. The upper with new internal underlays is comfortable, secure and well-padded with a moderately-narrow fit and a somewhat lower volume than others on the list.
Hoka One One Torrent
Weight: 9.1 oz. (US M9); 8 oz. (US W8)
Stack Height: 24mm heel/19mm forefoot (5mm drop)
Price: $120; available Summer 2018
The Hoka One One Torrent surprised us. The lightest shoe in our list; at first glance, it seemed to lack support and protection. But this replacement for the Speed Instinct can handle any terrain or surface with commendable agility. It likes to go fast and is agile, but is plenty accommodating at slower paces. The dual density midsole with its softer heel and firmer forefoot, provide moderately-soft cushion at the heel and decent front rock protection without any plate. The 4-5mm outsole lugs gripped everywhere, yet were also pleasant to run on hard, smoother surfaces. Its engineered mesh upper is simple and effective with plenty of toe box room, making the Torrent a good choice for racing.
Saucony Peregrine 8
Weight: 11.2 oz. (US M9); 10 oz. (US W8)
Stack Height: 25mm heel/21mm forefoot (4mm drop)
Price: $120; available now
For its version 8, Saucony’s Peregrine turns towards more comfort and greater distance utility. It is the “easy going, long haul, any terrain, moderate paces” option here. It offers a toothy, very-aggressive outsole and 6mm sticky lugs as well as a new cushy midsole. As the stack increases overall, so does the weight over its predecessors. The rock plate is gone, but not to worry, as the outsole and extra midsole stack provide plenty of protection. And as a bonus it has plenty of long, easier-yet-stable flex, the most of any shoe listed. The upper is higher-volume with minimal overlays and a wider, comfortable toe box and solid midfoot hold.
Altra King MT 1.5
Weight: 10.6 oz. (US M9); 9 oz. (US W8)
Height Stack: 19 mm heel/19 mm forefoot (zero drop)
Price: $140; available now
The Altra King MT 1.5 is the wild one of the group. While not as light as it appears or runs, it is a lively, low-slung, all-terrain shoe that can cross over to day-to-day trail running if you like a lot of ground feel. It is also a great choice for OCR-type races and training. It features an outsole with 6mm lugs and Altra’s resilient and responsive zero drop midsole. The quick drying ripstop upper has a roomy toe box and no heel counter, yet everything is held by the stout and effective midfoot strap. For all the mud, snow and loose scree you’ll be slogging through, the shoes come with a four-point GaiterTrap to easily change your socks and shoes without removing the gaiter. The King MT is just plain fun to run in, and we particularly enjoyed it on snow where both harder, slipperier surfaces and deeper powder were handled with ease.
Brooks Caldera 2
Weight: 9.9 oz. (US M9); 9.0 oz. (US W8)
Height Stack: 28 mm heel /24 mm forefoot (4mm drop)
Price: $140; available now
The Brooks Caldera 2 is a steady, all-a-round choice with a well-cushioned, softer-yet-stable ride. It is the stiffest shoe but flows smoothly. It has the most forefoot stack cushion but no rock plate, which we didn’t miss. Its cushion is forgiving, and the Caldera is stable and quite responsive due to its extensive outsole coverage of 4mm-high, surface area lugs. These relatively low-height lugs were surprisingly effective in New Hampshire mud and over wet roots and rocks. It also boasts a quick draining, durable mesh upper and slightly stretchy 3D-rubber-printed overlays. Lastly, it includes a thoughtful lace garage and rear Velcro Gaiter Tab.