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Best In Gear Awards: Best Trail Running Shoes of 2022

What You Need To Know

  • Our list of top trail running shoes of the year
  • From terrain to road-to-trail, we cover it all
  • Only shoes released in this calendar year were considered
  • Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below

It’s hard to believe we’ve made it through another year already. Don’t worry; it felt quick to us, too, but maybe it’s because this is the year trail shoes got fast. Over the last twelve months, we’ve tested all kinds of trail offerings, from technical to max cushion and everything in between. With the holidays around the corner, it only feels right to present our Best In Gear Awards. Today, we’ve got the best trail running shoes of 2022.

Above all else, this was the year for the trail super shoe. Carbon fiber (or sometimes Carbitex) plates and super foams were all over the place, with all the biggest brands cooking up the speed. We saw some real speed demons (like the Saucony Endorphin Edge) and some swings and misses (like the Altra Mont Blanc), but it’s just good to see the trail scene evolving. Of course, there’s plenty to love on the non-plated side, too. Hoka’s Speedgoat 5 and Mafate Speed 4 spent the year battling for our hearts, and Nike’s Pegasus Trail 4 reminded us that it’s one of the best shoes around, even when you’re not running. Zero (or at least low) drop continues to crush the trail realm, with Topo and Altra turning in some of our favorites for technical terrain.

It’s easy to think of 2022 as a year of wild price tags, too. Speedland and Norda continue to burn through our wallets, but it’s tough to find more tech in a shoe — of any kind. Running shoes, as a whole, are getting more expensive thanks to inflation, but that’s where our list comes in. Instead of buying a whole bunch of shoes and returning what doesn’t work, we’ve already done the testing. These picks cover a wide gauntlet of uses, and all of our reviews are conducted by a team of reviewers in different conditions, with different sizes, and at different speeds.

So, you might be wondering how we chose. We locked our trail team in a room without any gels to eat or sweet, sweet dirt to sink their feet into. Then, we gave them a list of categories and told them to choose a winner and a runner-up for each. Only once they finished were they allowed to emerge back into the wilderness. While our list doesn’t reflect the preference of one runner overall, it offers a good mix of our team’s experiences as a whole.

If you’re already moving on to 2023, stay tuned. We’re heading down to The Running Event in Austin next week to get the full scoop on what’s around the bend. Thanks for hanging with us, hopefully we’ll catch you on the singletrack next year.


BEST TECHNICAL TRAIL SHOE

Speedland SL:HSV best trail running shoes of 2022

» Speedland SL:HSV

Upgraded BOA dials | Tuned specifically for the “Beast Coast” | Black is slimming… and speedy

When you have this much technology packed into a shoe, it’s gonna shine somewhere. Speedland takes the “all that and the kitchen sink” approach to its shoes, and it shows. The SL:HSV — specifically tuned for life around Huntsville, Alabama — is the brand’s second creation, with a few critical tweaks from the OG. At its heart, the SL:HSV is a lot like the SL:PDX, but it picks up integrated gaiter attachments, upgraded BOA dials, a tweaked Carbitex plate, and, perhaps most importantly, a new outsole configuration.

Speedland’s SL:HSV is our top pick for the best technical trail running shoes of 2022, thanks partly to the customization options. BOA dials are a dream for finding the perfect fit, and we’re happy never to tie our shoes again. The beefed-up lugs scream, “get me dirty,” and the black colorway isn’t nearly as dirt-prone as the original mint green version. Just be ready for some sticker shock — almost four Benjamins is a lot to ask for, well, anything.

PRICE: $375

Read the Review Shop The Shoe – Unisex

HONORABLE MENTION: Altra Lone Peak 6

The Altra Lone Peak 6 ($140) doesn’t have the glitz or the glam of the Speedland, but it has a reliable following and years of tuning. It’s a zero-drop trail crusher with plenty of ground feel underfoot and a roomy toebox for tackling the terrain in comfort. We’re pretty pleased that it’s not a major reboot over the Lone Peak 5, but mainly because the last version was just that good. Altra’s MaxTrac outsole is a set of claws for your feet, while the upper is well-built without feeling like a tank.


BEST LIGHTWEIGHT TRAIL SHOE

saucony endorphin edge log

» Saucony Endorphin Edge

The wild side of PWRRUN PB | Forget about the Endorphin Trail | Dig the pink

In our review, we compared the Saucony Endorphin Edge to riding a wildcat, and we’re gonna stick by that. This shoe is everything that the Endorphin Trail should have been and then some. It copies and pastes everything that made the Endorphin Pro 3 our favorite racing shoe this year and tunes it for life in the wild. You still get a healthy PWRRUN PB midsole, smooth SpeedRoll geometry, and a vibrant pink colorway that just glows. The main difference is that the Endorphin Edge kicks up the protection and adds one mean-looking PWRTRAC outsole.

Of course, as our best lightweight trail running shoes of 2022, we’d be remiss not to mention the weight. Saucony’s Endorphin Edge tips the scales at just 9 oz. (255 g.) for a US M9 and 7.8 oz. (221 g) for a US W8. That’s right there in road daily trainer territory, but with a whole lot more going on. When we say the Endorphin Edge is like riding a wildcat, we also mean it as a warning. It’s a trail shoe that brings plenty of its own flare. Be careful as you bomb down hills because the Edge might send you over, well, the edge.

PRICE: $200

Read the Review Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women

HONORABLE MENTION: Hoka Tecton X

This isn’t the only time you’ll see the Hoka Tecton X ($200) on this list, so we’ll keep it brief. The Tecton X might be Hoka’s best road shoe of all time, which is no small feat. Our road team loves their Bondis and Cliftons, so it takes a lot for them to embrace the wild side. The Tecton X packs not one but two plates in a Profly midsole, and it only picks up a few tenths of an ounce over the Endorphin Edge. We’ll dig a little deeper when we come back to the Tecton X below…


BEST MAX CUSHION TRAIL SHOE

topo ultraventure 3 best trail running shoes of 2022

» Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3

Revamped ZipFoam formula | Topo is goin’ green | Ultra-breathable upper

Max cushion and the trail scene don’t always go together. Sometimes that stack adds too much height and makes technical terrain feel dangerous — let alone eliminates ground feel. Other times, however, a max cushion trail shoe strikes gold. Topo Athletic revamped its Ultraventure 3 for 2022, and our team fell in love at first step. We’re no strangers to a redesigned Ultraventure, but it makes each pair like a box of chocolates: We’re never sure what we’re gonna get. This time, we got a gem.

The team at Topo redesigned the Ultraventure’s upper and paired it with a brand-new formulation of ZipFoam and an all-new Vibram outsole. It checks all of our boxes, and Sam even laced up his pair for the Patapsco Valley 50k almost right out of the box. Topo’s 5 mm drop (35 mm/30 mm) is just about the sweet spot for a trail shoe, and it even manages to hold onto just a little bit of ground feel. Our team loved the overall fit, and we’re sure you could trust the Ultraventure 3 beyond the smooth to moderate trails that Topo recommends.

PRICE: $150

Read the Review Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women

HONORABLE MENTION: Hoka Mafate Speed 4

There’s no getting around the fact that Hoka had a pretty great 2022. Our team loved the Speedgoat 5 as much as one could love a shoe and found a way to love Hoka even more in the Mafate Speed 4 ($185). It’s not the most affordable shoe on the trail scene, but it brings everything together in a baller burrito of a package. The Profly midsole is thick and luxurious, and the Vibram Litebase underneath has yet to let us down.


BEST VALUE TRAIL SHOE

merrell mtl long sky 2 cover

» Merrell MTL Long Sky 2

A magic Merrell mashup | Feelin’ the Vibram vibes | Floatpro foam is great for the money

Merrell is one of those brands that, if you know, you know. It manages to fly under the radar against big guns like Hoka and Saucony, but it offers some damn good shoes at prices that are tougher to find than ever. The MTL Long Sky 2 made a splash for us this year because it somehow reminds us of lots of other Merrell shoes. It pulls elements from the MTL Skyfire and Moab Flight into a beautiful Frankenstein’s Monster of a shoe. Taylor had special praise for how the Long Sky 2’s upper hugged his midfoot and Achilles, offering a just-right fit that requires no ratcheting to lock in place.

The Long Sky 2 has a relatively low stack, with just 23.5 mm of foam in the heel and 19.5 mm in the forefoot. That said, the durometer of Merrell’s Floatpro foam is just enough to still get some cushion as you roll along. It’s not going to put up a fight in the max cushion world, but it’s a great escape from the modern foam monsters. Also, how can we argue against a $140 price tag? It’s matched by the Lone Peak, and that’s about it.

PRICE: $140

Read the Review Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women

HONORABLE MENTION: Topo Athletic Pursuit

If the Ultraventure 3 won over the hearts of max cushion enthusiasts, the Topo Athletic Pursuit ($140) is the shoe for everyone else. Sure, it’s a zero-drop platform, but that doesn’t have to scare anyone. It still has 28 mm of foam underfoot, which is more than enough cushion for the long days of mountain pushin’. Topo mixed its Zipfoam midsole with a Vibram Megagrip outsole, and it’s tough to go wrong with a one-two punch like that.


BEST RACE DAY TRAIL SHOE

hoka tecton x best trail running shoes of 2022

» Hoka Tecton X

Not one plate, but two | We love a play on words | Honestly, it could be Hoka’s best road shoe, too

I told you we’d be back for a little more Tecton X love. It’s our favorite trail running shoe of 2022 on race day, and it has the distinct honor of being a super trail shoe that doesn’t want to kill you. Most other trail super shoes go all-in on the bounce, trying to rocket you down the trail. The Tecton X, on the other hand, mixes elements from Hoka’s other success stories to create a seven-layer dip sent from the heavens. There’s a breathable upper, a Profly X midsole, not one carbon plate but two, and some Vibram Megagrip Litebase underfoot — how much more do you want?

If we had to break it down, the toebox feels like it was pulled from the Mafate Speed (a little more volume and shape), while the midfoot and heel are closer to the fitted Speedgoat and Challenger. Hoka’s Tecton X is also pretty darn light at less than 10 oz. for a US M10.5. The segmented plates can get a little bit shifty, however, so you’ll have to carefully watch your footwork. Land too far to one side or the other, and you’ll be feelin’ the carbon plates spring you right off the trail. The Tecton X doesn’t have the deepest lugs, but they’re more than enough to get you through a 50k and a little bit of road action.

PRICE: $200

Read the Review Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women

BEST ROAD-TO-TRAIL SHOE

» Saucony Ride 15 TR

Just as good as the road version | Saucony didn’t just slap some lugs on the bottom| Can’t argue with the price

We’re content to call 2022 the year of super trail shoes, but it could also be the year of road-to-trail shoes. Brands are coming out of the woodwork to offer a wilderness-ready version of some of the best road trainers of the year, like the Asics Novablast 3 TR, Reebok Floatride Energy 4 Adventure, and this shoe, the Saucony Ride 15 TR. It’s almost the same as the original Ride 15 in the midsole, with plenty of PWRRUN foam to keep you cushioned. However, the crew over at Saucony added a beloved PWRTRAC outsole with 3.5 mm lugs and gave the upper a nice boost, too.

All of the extras mean this shoe is a bit heavier than its road counterpart, but that’s no dealbreaker. It still comes in below 10 oz., right in the middle of trail trainer territory. It’s a good jumping-off point for Saucony’s trail line, especially if you’ve been eyeing the Endorphin Edge or even the Peregrine. You’ll get more foam underfoot than you would with the Peregrine, but the upper is a little more approachable if you’re not used to the trail fit. There’s also no rock plate, so be careful what trails you tackle — though rock plates aren’t expected of road-to-trail picks.

PRICE: $140

Read the Review Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women

HONORABLE MENTION: Nike Pegasus Trail 4

Nike’s Pegasus Trail 4 ($140) isn’t a road-to-trail shoe in the truest sense, but it does work as a trail version of a road shoe. Each year, the Pegasus Trail strays further from its road counterpart and somehow finds a way to become the best version. We’ve complained about the outsole compound for years, but no more. Nike seems to have finally found its footing, and we couldn’t be happier. There’s also a Gore-Tex version, in case you want to dance through every puddle on the trail — or at Disney World.


BEST UNDER THE RADAR TRAIL SHOE

saucony xodus ultra best trail running shoes of 2022

» Saucony Xodus Ultra

A top-to-bottom rebuild | Might have supplanted the Peregrine | PWRRUN PB core protected by tougher PWRRUN

It seems pretty clear at this point that Saucony had a rockin’ year. It’s claimed three crowns among our best trail running shoes of 2022, and it’s done so by embracing the rebuild. We weren’t crazy about the Xodus 11 last year, which seemed to temper our expectations coming into this shoe. Boy, were we wrong. The rebuilt Xodus Ultra is kind of like reconnecting with an old friend (Taylor started his trail journey in the Xodus), but an old friend with a few new tricks. Maybe part of the problem is that Saucony didn’t make a huge fanfare around the launch in June, but that means we have to shout it louder.

The Xodus Ultra actually beat the Endorphin Edge to the PWRRUN PB punch, offering a core of the super foam surrounded by a more durable PWRRUN shell. It works remarkably well, considering there’s no plate for extra pop. Oh, and the Xodus Ultra only ways 10.5 oz. for a US M10.5 — barely heavier than the Peregrine. The fit is generous without being sloppy, which accommodates the inevitable foot swelling during a long day on the trails. Matt called it a legitimate competitor to the Speedgoat 5, which is pretty high praise if you ask us.

PRICE: $150

Read the Review Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women

HONORABLE MENTION: Brooks Divide 3

Wanna know how a shoe manages to go really under the radar? We haven’t even reviewed it. The Brooks Divide 3 ($100) is one such shoe — it snuck up on us and was gone while we were in full reviewing swing. However, it’s a great option if you’re just getting into the trail running scene thanks to its DNA Loft cushioning, road-ready 8 mm drop, and road-to-trail style. The mesh upper will let your dawgs breathe, but there are enough overlays to keep your foot locked in place.


BEST RECOVERY SHOE

topo athletic revive

» Topo Athletic Revive

Ever worn a Vibram slipper? | There’s a 3 mm drop if that matters | So. Much. Fleece.

Are you ready for the most aggressive slipper you’ve ever seen? I know we are. We like to run hard and recover even harder, so there has to be a recovery pick among the best trail running shoes of 2022. This year, the honor goes to the Topo Athletic Revive. The slipper is absolutely decked out in fleece, which is as cozy as it looks. Taylor spent countless hours in Topo’s Rekovr 2, and he only agreed to take it off once the Revive landed at his door. Topo’s 3D Wave Sense insole is just as comfortable under your foot as the fleece layer is on top of it, but that’s not even the best part.

This slipper has a Vibram outsole. Are you kidding me? How awesome (and maybe unnecessary) is that? There’s a 3 mm drop from the heel to the toe, and the claws underfoot offer better grip than Nike’s first few years of trail outsoles. We’d like to clarify that you really shouldn’t run in the Revive, but at least it’s good to know you have grip. Just be careful — the fleece upper seems like it might pick up some leaves and twigs if you venture off the beaten path.

PRICE: $120

Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women

HONORABLE MENTION: Hoka Ora

The Hoka Ora ($55) isn’t the most aggressive recovery shoe, but that’s probably because it’s a recovery shoe. It skips the Vibram claws in favor of a fat stack of EVA foam, and the meta-rocker geometry helps to keep you rolling along even when your legs don’t want to. Like most Hoka shoes, the Ora comes in many colors, so it’s bound to match your race-day outfit — just not the mud you pick up along the way.

3 Comments

  1. Respectfully disagree with the Saucony road to trail choice, the toebox is SNUG! The Nike Peg 4 is a much more accommodating shoe, bought it based on your review, it’s a great shoe.

  2. I’ll second the Nike Peg 4. Just as an aside. I bought the Skechers TRL 2 for $56US (I know it isn’t in many peoples closets in 2022) but these shoe just rip on the trails. Even wet boardwalk is no match. Haven’t hit any real technical stuff or super rocky but road to trail is awesome and single track with roots, stumps are so fun to hammer. Plus the price 🤩

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