Every year, hundreds of new trail running shoes hit the market. With so much choice, finding the right shoe can feel like an ordeal. Helped by five carefully chosen, running-mad, GO Outdoors store staff we have tried and tested a selection of our most popular specialist trail running shoes.
Each tester received multiple pairs of shoes from different brands and was given two months to put them through their paces. Once they had covered enough mileage on variety of terrain and trail conditions to get a feel for the shoe, they submitted a report. We have extracted the key information and grouped it into common themes, so it’s easy to digest.
From battle hardened Ultra Marathon runners to weekend warriors, our testers were chosen from GO Outdoors stores across the UK and represents a broad spread of abilities and experience. They all share a love of trail running, run multiple times a week and know what makes a good trail running shoe.
Michael has 13 years of competitive running experience. He has competed at school, University and County level. Typically, Michael runs between 30 and 40 miles a week on road and trail. At GO, Michael is an expert in running and gait/injury analysis. He is also a running coach. He does most of his trail running around the Lincolnshire Wolds and the Peak District.
51-year-old Chris has been running seriously for almost 8 years. A normal week for Chris includes up to 11 hours of running time, predominantly on trails and mountains throughout Wales. A competitive endurance runner, Chris regularly competes in long distance runs. In June this year he competed at the legendary 80K Lavaredo UTMB trail race in the Italian Dolomites. He’s also proud of running the Welsh 3000s in under 15 hours. Chris usually runs in shoes from Hoka, La Sportiva and Inov-8.
Jack lives and works in the Lake District, where he is an assistant store manager. In his spare time, Jack is dedicated to running off-road in the stunning Lake District, on trails and fells. He runs for local club, Ambleside AC, and takes part in races throughout the year. You will usually find Jack running in Inov-8 shoes, his preference is a minimally cushioned trail shoe with 0mm to 4mm of drop.
In Cassy’s own words, she’s a recreational runner, enjoying a few miles in the evening after work with her dogs. In the summer Cassy likes to run to work, making the most of the trails and tracks that run along the Hope Valley. Cassy loves the Peak District’s mix of terrain with its towering climbs, gritstone trails, moorland heather, and wet peat bogs. She has taken part in a few local fell races and recently ran the 24km Sheffield Round Run. Her aim now is to challenge herself to run further and enter some more challenging fell races.
Manager of GO’s Manchester city centre store, John, participates in all sorts of outdoors activities including trail running. Making the most of his location, John regularly stretches his legs in Cheshire’s beautiful countryside.
(click the shoes below to read the full reviews)
A failsafe, top-notch trail running shoe that all our testers got along with. Available with or without a GORE-TEX® liner.
An instantly comfortable and supportive running shoe with effective lacing that adapts well to wide and narrow feet.
“One of the stand-out features of these shoes was the great fit and comfort they offered. The hold and fit were great, and I would say they were very true to size. There were no areas that rubbed or caused any discomfort, they held my foot very well and the cushioning was exceptional.” – Cassy
“These were a fantastically fitting and comfortable trail running shoe. Ideal for D or even E width feet. I was impressed with the lacing and would certainly consider other shoes that have similar lacing The arch of the shoes midsole and insole fitted my feet perfectly, the shoe felt very supportive.” – Michael
“It was immediately comfortable, with nice wide fit.” – John
“My foot remained nicely snug throughout my runs, and there was no unnecessary movement or slippage. I have a narrow foot, and the design of the lacing system allowed for a good fit, so they were secure but also comfortable.” – Cassy
The deep-lugged outsole offers first-class grip in all off-road conditions.
“The grip was excellent, providing me with confidence on various surfaces and in different conditions.” – Cassy
“They had good deep lugs for muddy, wet terrain.” – John
“Grip across a variety of trials was very good, even over wet rock and mud the shoe performed well with little slip and good protection from the ground underneath.” – Michael
The kind of waterproofing you’d expect from GORE-TEX®, but it runs a little hot for summer running.
“Excellent waterproofing qualities with the GORE-TEX® membrane.” – Cassy
“I purposely ran through puddles, but the shoes did not leak. My feet remained dry and I was impressed with their waterproofness.” – Michael
“Good waterproofing, but really these are a two, at a stretch three, season shoe as I found them to be quite warm.” – John
Plenty of cushioning and energy return from a stiffer, more supportive midsole that’s ideal for rugged trails.
“The midsole felt soft and comfortable but still with great feedback and propulsion. Due to the midsole’s more rigid feel, I felt supported on downhills and I felt that the more rigid feel helped me push up hills better.” – Michael
“In terms of responsiveness and energy transfer, these shoes did an excellent job of sustaining my momentum.” – Cassy
“Good underfoot stability for rocky terrain and ample cushioning for comfort.” – John
It’s not a lightweight racer, but the Peak 4 is more rugged than most running shoes and is built to last.
“The mixture of the thicker, supportive upper and waterproof lining makes the shoe feel very durable. This shoe is slightly weightier than I would normally wear. I have a few pairs that feel the same in terms of comfort and responsiveness but weigh much less than the Peak 4.” – Michael
“I have run plenty of miles in these shoes and noticed no significant change in performance. The traction, cushioning, and support has remained consistent, and the shoes held up remarkably well in terms of wear and tear.” – Cassy
Merrell’s Agile Peak 4 ticks a lot of boxes for trail runners of all levels.
“It’s a quality, waterproof, winter running shoe with reliable grip and it looks good enough to wear around town and stop for a cuppa.” – John
“A very durable, comfortable and grippy trail shoe for tough days out when running off the beaten track.” – Michael
“Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a beginner, I would recommend these for your next trail running adventure. They are my new go-to pair of trail running shoes.” – Cassy
Winterised trail shoes that are better suited to wider feet and heavier runners.
Impressive build quality in a shoe that is clearly designed for off-road action.
“Opening the box and inspecting the shoe, the build quality felt on point. Continental® rubber soles, a GORE-TEX® membrane, chunky trail running lugs – these were some really encouraging signs.” – Chris
A stiff shoe that is suited to heavier runners with wider feet.
“The lockdown of the shoe is adequate, and the toe box is accommodating, which is advantageous to a slighter wider foot.” – Chris
“I’ve read that the Agravic could be used for mountain marathons, but I’d have to disagree – It just feels too stiff and, for me at least, the Lightstrike midsole didn’t break in.” – Chris
The Agravic Flow 340 will keep your feet comfortable throughout Winter.
“I tested the Agravic Flow in water and mud, in fact, all my runs in these shoes were in rain, and it passed with flying colours.” – Chris
“I could definitely use them on easy days, where the conditions are very wet and cold and keeping your feet dry is key.” – Chris
Plenty of protection from the trail, great grip, and long-lasting construction.
“The Agravic’s upper feels very tough and it’s quite a stiff shoe, which was apparent from my first run.” – Chris
“There is protection throughout the sole with 20mm in the forefoot and 28mm in the heel. There is just enough ground contact feel. It doesn’t have a rock plate but the sole handles roots and rocks reasonably well. This shoe is for the trails, not a commuter shoe for long tarmac sections.” – Chris
“As for traction on roots, dirt, and sections of mud, this where the shoe excelled. The 4mm lug depth was more than adequate. The continental rubber really came into its own. I could easily run in this shoe for 500/600 miles.” – Chris
Built to last but lacking an energetic feel for lighter runners.
“It’s a workhorse which will tackle most terrain. At speed I feel it lacks energy return; it didn’t have the pop or responsiveness I’m looking for.” – Chris
“Going back to build. Yes, it’s well made with premium materials and its real tank of a shoe, but despite the stout heal counter, it just lacked plushness and zip.” – Chris
A versatile, all-conditions shoe for serious runners that gives a connected feel with the trail.
The Trail Talon’s low stack height gives a connected feel with the trail.
“They are a little lower in profile than the other two, only 11mm stack height at the front of the shoe and it shows, you feel very connected to the trail in these.” – Jack
“ I usually run with a higher stack height, so the 19mm/11mm midfoot took a while to get used too. However, by the third run however it wasn’t as noticeable as I thought it might be.” – Chris
Its wider fit is complemented by great foot hold.
“I have quite narrow feet, so I felt hesitant with how much room there was in the shoe. On Inov 8’s foot scale this is measured as fit 4. The 290 is marketed for a runner with a wider foot or enjoys a full foot splay in the toe box. All of this of course can be adjusted with a good lockdown and the use of the runner’s knot. With the extra room this can definitely be positive on some longer distances, but overall, it’s not suited to narrow foot shape.” – Chris
“The foot hold of the Trail Talon 290 is fantastic, secure in the heel and midfoot, with space for the toes in the forefoot.” – Jack
Opinion of the grip in soft conditions was mixed, but the shoe worked well.
“I wore the shoe in a mixture of woodland trails, open grass fields, moorlands, bridal ways, stoney tracks, fire roads and tarmac. It handled all the above well. The 4mm lug depth is adequate and even on some muddier/sloppy sections it worked well.” – Chris
“The one thing to pick up from that run though was the grip, it definitely pales slightly compared to the Salomon, which is the one niggle I have with it.” – Jack
Opinion of the grip in soft conditions was mixed, but the shoe works well for a mix of road and trail running.
“I found they were well suited to hilly intervals. They felt easy to put down power on steeper terrain. But soft and muddy shoes, these are not, firmer terrain seems to be the trick here.” – Jack
“Straight out of the box the Trail Talon feels plush. Something you could potentially take the distance. Ride wise it felt lively and rapid. It felt great turning on the pace on a few descents and worked well on the tarmac sections too. I could feel the trail underfoot on stoney sections – so, potentially a rock plate beneath the midfoot would counteract this. Overall, though it’s a minor and didn’t take away the enjoyment of running in them.” – Chris
It’s a versatile on-and-off-road hybrid that’s popular with serious runners.
“Overall, I liked the hold of the Inov-8 Trail Talon 290 a lot, and they’d be great if you kept to harder trails. I run in too much soft stuff to really love them.” – Jack
“I enjoyed running in them. The Trail Talon is a reactive shoe with a plush heel that, unfortunately, wasn’t quite the right fit for my narrow feet.” – Chris
A well-cushioned shoe that’s perfect for light trail use and road running. Available with or without a GORE-TEX® liner.
“Pillow-like” sole and plentiful drop makes a very comfortable running shoe which lacks some control and stability on uneven surfaces.
“It took a bit of time for the shoes to bed in, but once they had I really valued the comfort especially on firmer trails, like my local forest tracks. From the outset they felt a little unstable on some of the more technical paths. I put this down to being unaccustomed to so much cushioning, but also because of the drop between heel and toe height. Personally, I would have preferred more cushioning in the toe area, but once I got used to the design and the shoes softened a little I found them to be a very comfortable pair of trail shoes.” – Cassy
“My initial impressions out of the box were all about the huge stack height and pillow-like midsole. I noticed that whilst that cushioning is delightful, I lacked feel of precise contact with the terrain underfoot, which if the ground is reasonably level isn’t a problem, but once it gets steeper is an issue.” – Jack
A sole that’s more “run-everywhere” than trail specific.
“The traction in the sole was good, but on the more technically challenging rocky paths I didn’t feel as confident in these shoes as other models.” – Cassy
“Grip underfoot was positively surprising, given the minimal lugs. The sole unit/midsole combo is stiff enough to hold the foot properly when running uphill, although they are slightly heavier than I’d usually run in.” – Jack
Be sure to check the sizing before ordering.
“The shoes themselves fit well to my foot, they measured up half a size small for me, but it did not cause any problems.” – Cassy
“The toe box is fairly roomy, as is the midfoot, and that meant it was a little sloppy coming down fast technical trail, something that has been born out since. I had two separate niggles on runs which demonstrated the roominess inside and how I struggled to dial the fit.” – Jack
A versatile all-conditions running shoe that’s idea for trail running newbies. The Soulstride Flow is more suited to flat, well-maintain trails than rugged Lake District epics.
“Overall, I thought the shoe was alright, but probably not my cup of tea. Terrex’s Soulstride is more suitable for a higher volume footshape and someone who runs on less technical trails. They also felt slightly warmer on a hot day than ideal. With that said, on longer flatter runs, you could really feel the midsole feeding energy back into the stride, so, as a long easy-run training shoe, these would do the trick very nicely.” – Jack
“I would say these shoes make a perfect entry into trail running, they are comfortable and give you a great flow particularly on well-maintained trails.” – Cassy
A lightweight trail running thoroughbred that forgoes a little bit of support for all-out speed.
It is a handsome and speedy trail running weapon!
“A handsome shoe – I wore them straight out the box to work!” – John
“The Salomon shoe felt fast! I really enjoyed the lightness of the shoe and the great ground perception that you get when wearing it, I knew where my foot was at all times.” – Michael
Salomon has a reputation for snug, narrower fitting shoes, so wider footed runners take note.
“The shoe did feel a touch on the snug side, I wasn’t as impressed with the width as I was with the Merrell, however I still found no slipping, just would prefer a little more width. The cushioning was good, but the Merrell Peak Agility 4 I tested alongside the Alphacross was certainly more comfortable to wear.” – Michael
“I ran around 50 miles in this shoe, with again no signs of viable wear or degradation. Even though I am a fan of salmon’s quick lace lacing, I do feel as if it would be less durable than a traditional lace over time, this was just a gut feeling.” – John
The tread pattern of Salomon’s trail shoes always impresses with the level of grip on offer. The Alphacross is no exception.
“The deep tread looked promising for the woods and fields of Styal. They didn’t disappoint – my regular route involves steep, slippery slopes and rooty and rocky ground. I found them ideal on the soft, wet and muddy ground but their lack of rigidity and stability was evident over rockier, pebbly ground.” – John
“The grip was good, I felt stable over a variety of terrains but felt that with fewer lugs I did feel wearier on muddier terrain.” – Michael
The Alphacross finds a happy balance between enough cushioning and a lightweight feel.
“Other than in the heel, it wasn’t the most cushioned midsole. There are better shoes for harder surfaces, but the Salomon Alphacross 4 did feel fast and light. The shoe was flexible with loads of grip, which made steep climbs a little easier.” – Michael
“The cushioning felt great, offering responsiveness and cushioning in a lightweight package and was more flexible when moving uphill giving great grip.” – John
A shoe for light-footed trail runners that value freedom above protection.
“A very enjoyable, grippy and light trail shoe for a runner looking to get over trail terrain in an agile and definitive manner.” – Michael
“The Alphacross 4 is a lightweight and flexible shoe with lots of grip. It’s good for short runs on wet, soft, muddy conditions. Unfortunately, it’s not waterproof, which I prefer to a more breathable quick drying shoe – the GORE-TEX® version would have been a better choice. It lacked some rigidity and stability for rockier ground and longer trail runs.” – John
Weatherproofed Fall to Spring trail shoes with ample support and legendary Salomon grip levels.
Salomon’s pull tight Quicklace system is convenient but lacks some of the adjustability of conventional laced shoes.
“First thing you notice about these (aside from the colour) is the Salomon Quicklace system, which replaces traditional laces with a fancy nylon number that pulls tight and secures near the top of the tongue. I hadn’t used it before but know full well it works effectively at retaining lace tension. I don’t feel it gives quite the same adjustability as a traditional running lace with the extra eyelet hole at the back. On steeper descents, it was hard to get the lacing precise enough to stop slipping down inside.” – Jack
Trademark Salomon levels of grip!
“Running impressions were, as you’d expect from Salomon, a seriously grippy machine. The lugs on the bottom are nicely directional, different from front to back to aid traction up (which worked well) and grip going down (also worked well). These felt secure on little grassy descents, wet earth, and trail; for sure, one of the best gripping shoes on the market.” – Jack
Well cushioned, but engaging, with more drop than most trail running thoroughbreds.
“The heel felt secure, with more support around the back than the Adidas Soulstride Flow. There is a significant drop in these shoes (11mm), so it feels aggressively poised and good going uphill, with its bouncy midsole beneath the heel. Going downhill, the trail contact was good too, the Supercross gives plenty of feedback but is well cushioned. They didn’t feel amazingly stable though, probably due to that drop.” – Jack
If Quicklace works for your feet, the Supercross 4 GORE-TEX is fantastic trail running footwear.
“Despite my efforts with the lacing system, I couldn’t secure my front foot satisfactorily – probably more a product of my foot shape than anything else. The grip was great, but the Supercross 4 GTX were not quite for me because too much padding contributed to warmer feet than I like. Did I mention the grip?!” – Jack
Great value, four season, beginner’s trail running shoe that breeds confidence off-road.
A sturdy, sure-footed entry level trail running shoe that inspires confidence
“Originally, I thought the Tracerocker 2.0 felt rigid compared to other trail running shoes. After running a few miles in them over the rugged terrain of the Peak District, I began to really appreciate the sturdy design. They held my foot very well and I quickly began to trust every foot placement.” – Cassy
Regular road runners should consider a better cushioned shoe like the Souldstride Flow instead.
“I would have preferred a little bit more cushioning and comfort on the flatter harder surfaces. On roads and paved trails, the shoe felt a little too firm, but they are a trail running shoe and off road they were great.” – Cassy
The general advice on Terrex running shoes is that you should consider sizing up.
“I’m a UK 6.5 but felt these were a little on the small side, as my toe felt like it was touching the end so may have preferred a size up, but having said that it never caused my any problems on my runs.” – Cassy
A great value shoe with a moderate midsole drop for confident off-road running on a shoestring.
“The Tracerocker 2.0 is a dependable shoe for off the beaten track. Its standout feature is great grip. The shoe’s GORE-TEX® membrane is also a surprising addition considering the shoe’s affordable price and it keeps your feet dry while exploring the trails.” – Cassy