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Six rugged kicks that up the fun on dirt runs.
The benefits of running off-road on softer surfaces are obvious: It’s easier on your body than pounding the pavement, and the slight variances in your gait help engage smaller muscles in your feet, lower legs, hips and core. The benefits of wearing trail running shoes are pretty straightforward too—they offer more traction, protection and durability than your road-running sneaks. Here are six of the best shoes for everything from long, slow training runs to the 10K leg of your next XTERRA race.
Saucony Peregrine 7
The draw: Aggressive lugs that chew up the slop
If you regularly run on sloppy, wet trails, the updated Peregrine could be the right tool for the job. Its aggressively lugged outsole chews up muddy trails, wet grass and other messy terrain with ease. It has a low-to-the-ground feel with great trail feedback (and a minimalist 4mm heel-toe offset) but still offers plenty of cushioning and protection.
The North Face Endrus TR
The draw: Mountain marauder that tackles all trail types
This rugged shoe is ideal for running technical trails. It’s built on a wide, very stable platform and serves up confidence-instilling traction from a low-profile sticky rubber Vibram outsole that adheres to rocky terrain but also rides smooth on flat, feature-less terrain. It’s not a shoe that’s going to inspire speed or quick-cadence running, but it has loads of soft cushioning and a plush interior to keep it from being too burly or overbearing.
Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra
The draw: Adept at running long and slow or short and fast
If you’re a triathlete who runs a variety of trail types on occasion, you might consider a shoe that’s versatile enough to cover any surface well. The Sense Ultra is adept at short and fast running, but it also serves up loads of long-haul comfort for going the distance on just about any kind of terrain, from gravel roads to rocky trails. It’s a midweight shoe that serves up copious amounts of cushioning, protection, traction and stability, with just enough energy return to put a spring in your step.
New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi v2
The draw: Trail runner/road runner with minimalist leanings
Lightweight and low to the ground, the Gobi serves up quick-cadence leg turnover for faster workouts and trail races. It also has an improved outsole, with more aggressive lugs for enhanced traction on a wider variety of natural surfaces. The Gobi also features a newly engineered mesh upper that offers a snug, athletic fit—secure in the heel and mid-foot and comfortably flexible in the forefoot. Plus, you can’t beat the price tag.
The draw: Thickly cushioned ride with surprising pop
The Caldera is the first maximally cushioned trail shoe from Brooks, but its thickly cushioned midsole belies its versatility as an all-around trail-running phenom. This shoe’s dual-density midsole both absorbs and adapts to impacts and obstacles on the trail (roots, rocks, gravel and so on), offering up a stable ride with a keen sense of energy. The low-profile lugs are ideal for all kinds of wet and dry terrain, including roads.
Hoka One One Speedgoat 2
The draw: Super cushioning with a sticky outsole
The revised version of this well-cushioned trail shoe has been improved with a slightly wider fit, slightly firmer foam and a more dynamic stretch-mesh upper. Although it’s higher off the ground and lacks the feel-the-ground agility of some other models, the Speedgoat’s performance-oriented fit and rockered, concave-shaped bottom create a rolling smoothness that makes the miles fly by.