Reviewed: 3 Trail Running Shoes

The varied terrain of trail running offers a change in pace (literally) and takes the pressure off of hitting your in-season splits.

Photo: John David Becker

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Three trail-ready shoes to shake up your winter runs.

Trail running is the perfect off-season activity—the varied terrain offers a change in pace (literally) and takes the pressure off of hitting your in-season splits. These three trail-specific running shoes will make the transition to dirt more enjoyable.

New Balance 980 Trail


The best part about running in the New Balance 980 Trail is how your legs and feet feel when you’re done. The Fresh Foam midsole is plush yet resilient, offering a springy ride that leaves your body feeling surprisingly untaxed. The 4mm heel-to-toe offset keeps you in tune with the trail. The outsole features a semi-aggressive tread that provides door-to-trail versatility, making it perfect for runs of mixed terrain where you transition between roads and trails. The pattern of the tread is designed to provide traction over loose terrain going up or downhill, and the gusseted tongue prevents dirt and rocks from entering the shoe. The no-sew synthetic mesh upper does a great job of letting air in while keeping dirt out. This neutral trainer feels light on your feet at 10.5 ounces and offers up little in the way of pronation control, which is true of all Fresh Foam-equipped models. But the 980 feels remarkably stable if you have a mostly efficient stride, even after a few hours of trail pounding. With that in mind, this shoe performs best on mellow trails because it doesn’t have a rock plate.

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Salomon Sense Pro


At just a smidge over 9 ounces, the Sense Pro is light enough to race in for an XTERRA triathlon or trail half-marathon but offers enough cushion and protection for daily training. Part of Salomon’s City Trail collection, it’s a Swiss Army Knife of a shoe thanks to its versatile outsole that grips the trail without tripping you up or slowing you down on the road. The 5mm heel-to-toe drop keeps you connected with the ground, but a combination of compressed and injected EVA in the midsole along with a rock plate protects from trail hazards. The Quicklace system makes the shoe easy to put on, a feature you’ll appreciate whether you’re lacing up in T1 or your living room. The extra lace can be neatly stashed away in a small pocket on top of the tongue. The fit will cater to runners with narrow feet and high arches, but there is enough room in the forefoot to accommodate those who need a touch of extra volume. The Sense Pro is a true crossover shoe inhabiting multiple categories. It’s a racer, a trainer, a road shoe and a trail shoe rolled into one lightweight, neutral package.

RELATED: Lesley Paterson’s 12 Trail Running Tips

Mizuno Wave Kazan


An aggressive outsole tread makes the Wave Kazan capable of conquering just about any off-road terrain. The X-shaped lugs dig into the ground for multi-directional traction, providing grip over soft dirt, loose gravel and everything in between. An evolution of the Wave Ascend, the Kazan is designed to adapt to the ground while remaining nimble and flexible. Mizuno launched this shoe alongside the Wave Hayate, which is a lighter, lower-to-the-ground version of the Kazan. This neutral trainer has a steep 12mm heel-to-toe offset, which is outside the range of what’s trending right now on the trail shoe market. However, this shoe doesn’t feel like it’s overloaded with heel cushioning and still performs well for mid-foot strikers. At 9.8 ounces, the Kazan has a semi-firm ride (characteristic of most Mizunos) and offers adequate protection on long runs without feeling clunky or overbuilt. The upper is seamless and is graphically appealing with its topographic design. The fit is average throughout in terms of volume, but go with a half size smaller than your standard running shoe.

RELATED: 2014 Fall Running Shoe Review

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