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Trail running shoes may initially seem extravagant if you already own a decent pair of running trainers, but they’re truly transformative. With waterproof, barefoot, lightweight and high grip options, they’re far more tailored to rough terrain than their standard running trainer brethren.
While some running shoes can deal with both road and trail surfaces, if your favourite form of running involves mud, rock and a whole lot of off-road adventuring, or if you’re starting to get into trail running events, it’s definitely worth investing in a pair of women’s trail running shoes specifically designed to take you off tarmac.
What should you look for in a pair of trail running shoes?
The best trail running shoes offer good grip, with deeper lugs (the indentations in the sole of the trainer) than a road shoe, so that they can tackle wet rock and slick muddy surfaces and help you move quickly and confidently.
Some trail shoes are also waterproofed with technology such as Gore-Tex, a waterproof but breathable fabric membrane – waterproofed shoes won’t keep your feet 100% dry if you’re venturing into deep puddles or heavy rain, as water will eventually seep into your socks and the tops of your trainers, but they will keep your feet dryer and warmer for longer, and will protect from surface water, and are a good choice for autumn and winter.
Once you’ve checked your shoes are rugged enough for trail running, make sure they feel comfortable. Cushioned inner soles and tough but bouncy outer soles will keep you running in comfort over long distances.
Can you use trail running shoes for hiking?
In short, yes - they’re suitable for hiking, particularly in fair weather. They won’t, however, be as waterproof as a pair of sturdy hiking boots, nor will they last as long - but they’re safer to take on a hike than a pair of road running trainers.
Do trail running shoes last longer than road running shoes?
No, they last about the same amount of time, depending on the quality, traction, terrain, runner’s weight, running style, and technique. You’ll need to replace them after 500 miles (800 kms) use.
Can I wear trail running shoes on a treadmill?
Yes - they won’t hurt the shoes anywhere as much as a trail run! That said, it’s a strange experiment - more ‘buoyant’ under foot than standard trainers, so be careful if you have pronation or ankle issues.
What should you pay for a pair of trail running shoes?
Expect to pay around the £100 mark for a decent pair of trail running shoes, although we’ve also included good options for tighter budgets in our round-up of the nine best trail running shoes for women.
We also have a round up of the best gym bags here, best weight lifting trainers here, and best women’s hiking boots here.
Key specs – Weight: 208g; Size range: 4-8.5; Colour options: coral Waterproof: No
The eye-catching second incarnation of Asics’ Fuji Light was built with trails in mind.
A combination of highly cushioned insoles and a pleasingly light weight make these shoes ideal for covering longer distances with less fatigue.
The V-shaped lugs on Asics own-brand soles offer good grip, although we’d have liked them closer together so they pick up less debris – as they are they’re better suited to harder packed trails.
Another new model made with recycled materials, for eco brownie points.
Key specs – Weight: 299g; Size range: 3.5-9; Colour options: black Waterproof: Yes
Hitting your favourite mountain trail or heading out in foul weather? Adidas’ Agravic TRs can take on the elements thanks to a high-performing combination of Gore-Tex waterproofing, rubber toe boxes to protect your feet from rocks and thick outer soles that grip even wet surfaces.
The Gore-Tex membrane of the Agravics is fully waterproof even in heavy rain, keeping your feet dryer for much longer, and making these trail trainers double up nicely as hiking shoes.
Great price point, too.
Key specs – Weight: 460g; Size range: 2.5-8.5; Colour options: blue, black, navy, orange Waterproof: no
Pop Merrell’s Moab Flights on your feet and the first thing you’ll notice is how deliciously padded and comfortable they are – the
Flights feel like you’re wearing your favourite pair of casual trainers (and you might end up wearing them nigh-on everywhere) but they are trail ready, sporting Vibram soles with decent grip.
We also like that they’re made from 70% recycled materials and are vegan-friendly.
The only thing to consider is that these aren’t the coolest or most breathable of trainers – we’d save them for autumn and winter runs in dry weather, when they’ll keep your feet warm.
Key specs – Weight: 270g; Size range: 5.5-10.5; Colour options: black Waterproof: No
Hey, good looking.
While style isn’t the most important factor in a trail running shoe, we do like the bright 80s colourway of the Peregrine, which would look as good with jeans as it would with running shorts if you want to wear them off the trails.
The Peregrines aren’t just a pretty face, though – they’re grippy, light, breathable and quick to dry, so they’re ideal for hot weather trail runs, and good cushioning keeps them comfy mile after mile.
Key specs – Weight: 270g; Size range: 3-8; Colour options: Blue Waterproof: No
If you already own a pair of road running shoes and want to get a first pair of trainers specifically for trails, Decathlon is a great place to start.
Their MT2 for women offers good solid stability for trail runs for well under £100.
Deep lugs grip muddy paths, and a generous and tough toe box is ideal for anyone with wide feet, and offers great protection.
The sturdy sole makes this model double up well as walking shoes, too, although we’d stick to using these MT2s in cooler weather, as they aren’t the most breathable pair on the market.
Key specs – Weight: 245g; Size range: 3-9; Colour options: black, aqua, lavender Waterproof: No
The Cloudultras feel as comfy and cushiony to wear as they look – if you find most trail trainers unpleasantly stiff and solid, you’ll love this design, which really is as cloud-like as the name suggests thanks to a thick insole and wide outer sole.
These work together to feel bouncy and light underfoot as you run, and deep lugs are designed to stay mud and rock-free while still gripping the ground, so you can go far without any slips or trips.
Working on tarmac as well as off, this is a good trail shoe if you like to mix up off-road with road running.
These shoes run small, so try a half-size up.
Key specs – Weight: 265g; Size range: 3.5-7.5; Colour options: grey/pink Waterproof: No
Have you ever heard of ‘low drop’ running shoes?
The term refers to designs that emulate how you might run when barefoot, by using thinner but still protective soles that allow the runner to feel more of the ground beneath their feet, offering better balance and foot placement even as you’re flying down a trail.
Cimalp’s clever new 860 Drop Evo for women comes with three pairs of insoles, allowing you to switch downwards from an 8mm to a 4mm drop.
Whichever inner sole you use, Vibram outer soles still offer proper grip even on wet ground.
Key specs – Weight: 235g; Size range: 4-8.5; Colour options: coral Waterproof: No
We like the slim, snug fit of the Mizuno Rider, which feels more streamlined to wear and to run in than your average chunky trail running trainer – the Rider definitely doesn’t weigh you down at just 235g.
It might be slim-fitting, but this design still sports a solid but flexible sole, although the more limited grip makes it best suited for harder-packed trail surfaces rather than boggy mire.
This was one of the most breathable shoes on test – ideal if your feet always overheat on summer runs.
Key specs – Weight: 235g; Size range: 4-9; Colour options: light blue Waterproof: Yes
Let your feet breathe free even in wet weather in Salomon’s Sense Ride 4 – these shoes are a brilliant marriage of waterproofing and breathability.
Lightweight, with quick-adjust laces and with a cushioned sole that moulds nicely to your feet, the Sense Ride ticks our comfort boxes, and if the going gets tough a Gore-Tex membrane keeps feet reliably dry without trapping in sweat or making you overheat.
The perfect choice for trail running in Britain’s mercurial weather.
We like the baby blue colourway but it does look dirty quickly when you’re exploring dirt trails.