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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

56 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
66 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best men’s trail running shoes

More than any other exercise, running can become a way of life. Day in and day out, no matter what the weather or temperature, a runner puts in their weekly miles. But did you know the road isn’t the best place to train? Trail running offers a lower-impact alternative. Additionally, it’s an activity that can be performed away from pollution and in more beautiful surroundings.

However, you shouldn’t run on trails in regular running shoes. It takes a durable design with an aggressive tread to protect your feet from injury. The best trail running shoes are heavier than regular running shoes and have a protected toe box.

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One of the most important ingredients for success in trail running is wearing quality shoes that are designed specifically for the activity.

Key considerations

Trail type

The reason you’re considering getting trail running shoes is that you want to run on trails, but what type of trails? For instance, if you need to run on a paved surface for any length of time before reaching a trail, you might want to consider a hybrid shoe that’s suitable for both road and trail running. If the trails you prefer are free of obstacles, you may be able to get away with a lighter-weight shoe that offers less protection. However, if you’re going deep into the woods over loose rocks, roots, and other tripping hazards, you'll need a more durable, heavier trail running shoe.

Fit

Whenever you shop for an item to wear, you need to make sure it fits correctly. The proper fit for a trail running shoe is a tight, locked-in heel with a snug upper so the shoe doesn't slip when you’re running over uneven terrain. The front tip should extend about an inch beyond your toes to give your foot room to spread out upon impact.

Traction

If you’re running on pavement, you can get away with minimal tread because the surface is typically smooth, flat, stable, and dry. However, when dashing over rocky and steep terrain that could be wet and slippery, you need a shoe with a thick sole with deep tread to ensure better traction.

Protection

Besides requiring additional traction, you also need protection from all of those roots and sharp rocks that you could encounter on a trail run. This protection needs to be on the sole and in the toe area to help guard against punctures and stubbed toes. 

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Did You Know?
When tracking your fitness with trail running, focus on the time spent running, not the distance. Conditions vary drastically from day to day and trail to trail.
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Features

The following is a list of features to look for that will help you choose the best shoes for your specific trail running needs.

Components

Durable upper: The part of the shoe that encases your foot above the sole is called the upper. In regular running shoes, this is usually manufactured using light, breathable materials. However, when running trails, you need durable uppers with tightly woven mesh that won't tear easily in order to withstand the rigors of trail running and help protect your feet.

Tough toe box: The area where your toes go is called the toe box. In a trail running shoe, the toe box needs to be wide and reinforced to help shield your toes if they collide with rocks and roots.

Gusseted tongue: A gusset is an additional piece of fabric sewn into a garment for a particular reason. A gusseted tongue in a trail running shoe helps keep debris from finding its way into your shoes. It isn’t pleasant to place your full weight on a pebble or stray pine needle that has gotten inside your shoe.

Stable sides: When running on uneven and sometimes slick terrain it can be easy to turn an ankle. Look for trail running shoes that include additional stability features to help guard against these types of painful injuries.

Cushioning: If you like additional cushioning in your road running shoes, you'll probably appreciate the same feature in your trail running shoes.

Antimicrobial lining: Since trail running shoes don’t breathe as well as road running shoes, an antimicrobial inner lining is used to prohibit the growth of bacteria. This feature may be a necessity if your feet sweat and your shoes smell.

Weight

By design, a trail running shoe is heavier than a road running shoe. However, different shoes are manufactured to be different weights. If you prefer a lighter weight trail running shoe, there are minimalist models available, but you’ll be sacrificing some protection.

Waterproofing

You won't always be running in the rain or over muddy or wet terrain, but if you do, you’ll appreciate a trail running shoe that is designed to be waterproof.

Color

Many runners opt for brightly colored shoes. However, when running on trails, the wiser option is to purchase shoes in a color that can hide dirt stains.

If you’re an avid runner, consider purchasing two pairs of trail running shoes. Alternating them gives the shoes a little extra time to air out, plus the shock-absorbing foam won't break down as quickly.

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Men's trail running shoe prices

Inexpensive: You can go through trail running shoes fairly quickly, so looking at the lower end of the price range might seem tempting. However, many of the shoes in the $30 to $60 range might not offer the best fit or may be manufactured using price-cutting strategies that make the shoes suitable for lighter-duty use only.

Mid-range: The sweet spot for quality trail running shoes is around $80 to $140. In this range, the materials and manufacturing are typically higher quality but the price is still reasonable. At this level, you’ll also find precision-engineered treads, an antimicrobial inner lining, and a reinforced toe box for added safety

Expensive: If you're spending between $150 and $220, you could be getting a luxury trail running shoe with bells and whistles for additional safety and comfort, but you could also be getting a shoe that is only marketed to make you believe that’s what you need. Use a keen eye and be diligent in your research at this level to look for legitimate reasons for the shoe's higher price other than a designer name.

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Did You Know?
You need to work harder to maintain your balance on uneven terrain, so a side benefit to trail running is that it helps strengthen your core muscles.
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Tips

Even if you've been a runner for most of your life, if you've never run trails, there are a few things you need to know.

  • Do your research. Research the area and the trail before running. You don’t want any surprises. And double-check the weather report. Storms can come up quickly, and you don’t want to be stuck in an isolated area during a thunderstorm.
  • Dress appropriately. For trail running, long sleeves and long pants are the best option. Your clothing is your protection from branches and thorns and other natural hazards. Wear a bright hat and top. You always want to be highly visible when running trails, but even more so during hunting season.
  • Be prepared. Make sure your phone is fully charged in case of an emergency. There will likely be no place to stop and get a drink of water, so make sure you bring enough with you.
  • Be courteous. Trail courtesy is a thing. Trails can be narrow, so runners yield to horses. If two runners pass going in opposite directions, the uphill runner has the right of way. If you’re coming up behind someone, let the person in front of you know that you’re there.
  • Be safe. Run with a buddy. If you’ll be running trails alone, let someone know where you will be and your approximate return time. Trail running can be treacherous, so keep an eye on the trail ahead. It’s safer to run in the dirt. You never know if a rock is stable enough to step on until it's too late. Snakes will strike if they feel threatened. Keep your distance and don’t interact with snakes or any other animal that you may encounter.
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Trail runners tend to have fewer injuries than road runners because the terrain is generally more yielding, which significantly reduces the impact on joints.

FAQ

Q. How long do trail running shoes last?

A. Even though every runner runs in a slightly different manner and each pair of running shoes wears in a slightly different way, overall, running shoes have a fairly consistent lifespan. You can get 300 to 500 miles out of a pair. However, even if you run less than 5 miles each week, you should still consider replacing your trail running shoes within 18 months. The shock-absorbing foam compresses, making it more likely that you’ll sustain an injury.

Q. Are there any signs that it’s time to replace trail running shoes?

A. There are a number of them. Check the tread to make sure it’s still sufficient to provide traction. Look for creases and signs of wear on high-load areas, such as under the heel and the ball of the foot. Give the shoes a good twist. If that is easy to do, it's time for a new pair. Additionally, you need to listen to your body. New aches and pains in nearly any part of your feet and/or legs is a good sign that you’re no longer getting the support or cushioning you need.

Q. Is there anything I can do to make my trail running shoes last longer?

A. Yes. Untie them! Stepping on the heel to slip off a pair of trail running shoes is the quickest way to decrease their usable lifespan.  Also, since trail running shoes only last a certain amount of miles, the more you wear them during your everyday activities, the less you’ll be able to wear them for running. Finally, leaving your shoes in the trunk of your car between runs will expose them to extreme heat and cold (depending on the season), which will cause the shock-absorbing foam to break down more quickly.

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