Shoe guru Paul Freary takes a look at some of the latest trail and off-road options
When looking for a trail or off-road running shoe, it’s often all about the grip. However, given that no two paths are the same, careful consideration is required.
What’s the terrain like where you’ll wear your trail running shoes the most? If you’ll be negotiating soft, wet and muddy conditions then look for deeper lugs. For tackling gravel tracks and forest trails then more evenly spaced lugs will work better.
When it comes to cushioning, consider how hard the ground will be; if it’s soft then you’ll be fine in low-profile shoes, but on those firmer tracks reasonable cushioning will be called for.
SAUCONY – Peregrine 10 ST
A more specific, soft ground version of the very popular Peregrine shoe, this model excels in wet conditions.
Where the terrain is soft and muddy, the deeper, multi-directional lugs featured on the ST give it enhanced levels of traction, inspiring a more confident stride.
The brand’s new PWRRUN cushioning works well, too, giving range-topping levels of comfort in an off-road model.
The upper takes on a new trail-specific design and encloses the foot with a soft, sock-like fit that still feels protective.
High levels of comfort and grip, as well as a competitive price tag, make this a real off-roading winner.
VIVOBAREFOOT – Primus Trail FG
When considering ‘barefoot’ or minimalist shoes, trail options remain our recommendation for taking that first step.
This model from the barefoot specialists provides grippy outsole lugs with a durable protective sole for a robust yet flexible shoe, which is vegan friendly and made using recycled materials.
The upper has a drawstring fastening system which works well with the broader toe-box to create a good fit.
HOKA ONE ONE – Speedgoat 4 Gore-Tex
A natural evolution of the original shoe, this version sees it become a more versatile off-road running model.
It features the maximal cushioning the brand is now most well-known for, while traction comes from the Vibram outsole, with stronger, deeper studs to the outside to create a good off-road footing.
The Gore-Tex upper offers waterproof protection to keep you dry and is probably more ‘usable’ in a shoe aimed at the longer off-road events.
MIZUNO – Wave Daichi 5 FreshFoam Hierro 5
With good cushioning thanks to the Wave embedded midsole and traction from the Michelin rubber outsole, this shoe is ideal for those exploring varied terrains.
The sole provides enough grip when required off-road and on firmer surfaces the even spread of traction means you can keep up the pace in comfort. The upper is a good combination of lightweight, breathable materials and harder-wearing reinforced overlays for protection.
MERRELL – MTL Long Sky
Suited to long days on the trails on rough, rocky terrain, this shoe features a Vibram outsole for traction and durability and a deep, dual density midsole for cushioning and support.
It’s a very well-constructed shoe, with a strong upper, making it able to handle rugged mountain terrain with ease. The upper has a bootie construction that fits very well and feels snug and secure from the very first step.
The outsole lugs are 5mm deep, multi-directional and made with the Vibram Metagrip compound. Given the brand’s heritage, this shoe really should be very much at home in the hills.
ON RUNNING – Cloudventure Peak
You might question the colour choice, but the grip offered on muddy and rough terrain will certainly quash any concerns.
Light and fast, this model is aimed at the trail racer wanting aggressive grip and a light, versatile shoe for technical events.
The slim, stretch-fitting upper hugs the foot while the narrow heel and midfoot section instantly provide a sensation of speed – think ultra-light road racer feel but with masses of traction. Cushioning comes from the brand’s Cloud design pods in the heel and is great when descending, while in the forefoot there’s a varying size of studs.
INOV-8 – X-Talon G235
The original version of the X-Talon shoe was famous for its exceptional grip and this latest version of Inov-8’s best-selling off-road shoe now features their unique Graphene grip outsole.
Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms and therefore provides exceptional durability while retaining flexibility. The 8mm deep lugs act like claws on the fells and in the mud to provide fantastic grip. At only 235g they are light, even in the wet thanks to non-water absorbing upper.
CRAFT – OCRxCTM
Originally designed for obstacle course racing, this shoe combines the original with developments for the more extreme off-road runner.
It features deep, aggressive and well-spaced lugs that are a match for any shoe in the mud, giving a well-balanced and totally non-slip grip. The cushioning matches up well, providing a firm yet flexible feel that’s ideal in soft, wet conditions.
Craft may not be a familiar name in footwear but this shoe is certainly going to be a tough off-road contender.
VJ – MAXx
Billed as ‘the best grip on earth’, this model from Scandinavia offers the highest level of cushioning yet to their range of off-road shoes.
Grip comes from VJ’s butyl rubber compound which provides exceptional traction on any surface. The shoe is very well put together – it’s strong yet comfortable and very durable. It’s also the choice of world trail running champion Jonathan Albon.
The upper uses a mesh strengthened by Kevlar, so it’s built to last and survive the harshest conditions.
361° – Yushan
The brand’s most versatile off-roader, this model is aimed at those covering long distances or regular trail runs.
The Yushan features 361°’s cushioning technology, ‘Qu!kfoam’, with the responsive material encapsulated in the heel and covering the full width of the forefoot. This configuration ensures cushioning and a great toe-off.
The knitted upper is strong yet breathable and, with a gusseted tongue, it manages to keep debris at bay. This is a versatile, workhorse trail shoe that copes well with most conditions.
Click here for five of the latest carbon-plated shoes.
Further shoe reviews can be found here.