Best Trail Running Shoes for Women

Running trails is dirty business, but finding the right shoes doesn’t have to be.  This time around we’ve combed through the mud and leaves to bring you the best trail running shoes for women. This brief article explains important characteristics for trail shoes, gives you several options to choose from and explores our top three choices in detail. We’ll help you gear up no matter how far you go down the beaten path.

Related: Best Trail Running Shoe for Men

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The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women Reviews

Salomon Women's Speedcross

Adventure company Saloman is all about mountain sports so they’ve mastered trail footwear. The ripstop nylon upper is not only durable but does an excellent job of keeping out debris. It is a fantastic shoe for all types of terrain and will keep your feet dry in mud or snow. We love that Saloman paid attention to details.
They have an awesome quick lace system with a pocket at the top to hold your lace’s loops. No need to purchase lace locks on these shoes! They proved incredibly useful in keeping our laces out of the way during runs.
The lug pattern is superbly spaced and gets rid of mud easily. The arrow-shaped lugs on the forefoot face the opposite direction as those on the rear giving us unsurpassed stability and traction.
The toe box on the Speedcross 5 has been widened this year. Saloman continues to impress making it our favorite overall trail running shoe for women. They’re an all-around good performer for all conditions.

I have included Salomon’s instructions on how to use the laces at the bottom of the Guide!

trail running shoe

The Terraultra 270 is by Inov-8 combines a low drop anatomical fit with sufficient protection and support that is capable of anything. These are the best zero drop shoes for trail runners. Obstacle racers will also definitely appreciate that your foot sits low to the ground and that the toe box is so flexible. It’s worth noting that the toe box may take some getting used to if you’re not familiar with the unique shape of shoes from Inov-8 and Altra.

The mesh forefoot is more open and less waterproof than that of Speedcross, but it drains better. The luggy outsole helps them grip well to any surface. We found these especially capable on rocks and slick surfaces where footwork is important. And its reinforced lace eyelets are capable of surviving any abrasions. Terraultra 200 by Inov-8 is the best trail running shoe for women who need a combination of agility and durability; capable to handle even the most rigorous ultra marathon terrain.

Hoka Challenger Trail Runner

We really like that Hoka constructed the upper portion with no seams. They have a durable rubber toe bumper and overlays. You really don’t have to worry about snags and abrasions. The Challenger offers phenomenal cushioning and comfort, it is also available in a D wide-width fit for those that need an extra-large toe box. Both are truly appreciated after you’ve been on your feet for a while.

That extra cushioning doesn’t make these shoes heavy at all they are surprisingly lightweight and springy. One drawback is that the shoe is not as toothy as our top 2 picks therefore doesn’t perform as well in thick mud and wet terrain. However I they are great for a mixed road and trail run! These are awesome for long distance mixed-terrain run, especially for someone who is prone to a bit of foot swelling.

What to Consider When Purchasing Trail Runners

  • Grip: The tread on the bottom of a trail runner has Lugs. Wet conditions need wide waffle lugs to release the mud. Running on steep rocky terrain would benefit from soft rubber treads that grip tight, but have lots of protection.
  • Cushioning: The majority of trail runners have less cushion and have a minimalist design however if you have high arches or flat feet you should try looking for a shoe with a bit more cushion.
  • Stability: A good trail runner will offer a lot of support as the ground you are running on will be uneven and you could easily roll your ankle.
  • Water Resistance: Seamless waterproof uppers are used in trail runners to keep your feet dry and protect you from debris. They need to be moisture-wicking and breathable to prevent blisters. Check our best socks to prevent blisters review to pair with your trail runners.

What Makes Trail Running Shoes Different

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can use your regular running shoes for your next off-road adventure. There are a few important differences between the two. And we’re not referring to the superficial style or fit preferences.

  • Road shoes don’t have enough support, grip, or stability to get you through uneven terrain. Also, the mesh overlays that do wonders for ventilation are a detriment on trails where they allow dirt and debris to enter your shoe.
  • The best trail running shoes for women, and men, are sturdier and heavier than road shoes. The extra weight is due to the more durable materials they’re constructed from, and to extra features. Extra weight on the road could slow you down but is beneficial on the trails.
  • The outsoles have deeper larger lugs and a more aggressive tread pattern. This increases your grip and stability on rough obstacles such as rocks, branches, and inclines.
  • You’re more prone to foot injuries on trails than on the road. Trail shoes usually have stiff toe guards to prevent injuries from accidentally kicking things in your way.

How to use Salomon Quicklace System

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I wear trail running shoes for road running?

You can wear your trail runners on the road as many trail runs have paved sections and many people run from their house to the trail running on the road. However you should have a road shoe if you are only running on the road as you do not need the traction and lugs, this way you will save the wear and tear for the trail.

Can you use running shoes for hiking?

A normal runner designed for the road will be quite slippering hiking if there is any rain, snow or mud but if not they would be fine. They also don’t protect your feet from rocks and debris. I used to wear regular running shoes and switching to hiking shoes makes a huge difference. However a trail running shoe for hiking would be perfectly fine, some models even have a lightweight rock plate, like a hiking shoe.

What is a good trail running shoe for a beginner?

Our top pick was the Salomon Speed Cross. This would be a great beginner trail running shoe.

What is a good brand of lightweight trail runners?

The Inov-8 Women’s Terraultra G 270 Trail Running Shoe is a great lightweight option weighing 270g / 9.5oz for one shoe. The most lightweight trail runner is Merrel’s Women’s Bare Access XTR weighing 244g / 7.9oz.

An experienced runner and an active mom, Kelly is the research expert behind When you don't find Kelly training for her next 10k or 5k race you'll find her reading reviews and testing the latest running watch.

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