Best Trail Running Shoes of 2019 (So Far)
Sure, we run a lot of miles on roads, but we run almost as many on trails. In compiling the Best Trail Running Shoes of 2019, our core trail team of Matt, Erin, and Taylor bring a variety of terrain to the review process– from the rugged trails of New York to the rocks of the Mid-Atlantic to the mountains of Colorado.
And they’re not just weekend hobbyists; they’ve all placed top-10 in races this year, ranging between the 100K and 100-mile distance this year. Robbe also completed his first 50-mile race this year and shares some of his favorite shoes from that training cycle. Jarrett’s just excited that the Brooks Cascadia 14 came in wide (and so will the Speedgoat 4 in December).
While the Best Trail Running Shoes of 2019 isn’t an exhaustive list (nor is it organized in any way), it’s a good start to some great shoes. Now go kick rocks. (BTW Erin has an honorable mention for the Altra Timp 1.5, which didn’t make the list since it’s technically a December 2018 shoe.)
What can we say that hasn’t already been said? Only three versions in and this shoe is a trail legend. Matt wore these through the freezing winter and humid summer of New York, then rode them to a 9th place finish in the Palm to Pine 100 Miler in the PNW. That’s a testament enough right there. The Speedgoat 3 maintains most of the details of its predecessor but gets one notable upgrade that runners will love— a wider toe box. Our testing for the Speedgoat 4 begins soon, but you can’t go wrong with this version.Read the Review Shop HOKA Speedgoat 3
Give the Skechers design team a raise, ‘cause this thing is out there, in a good way. We can’t say too much about it now aside from the specs— the shoe is shockingly light for a trail shoe, featuring Hyper Burst cushioning in the heel and Ultra Flight cushioning in the forefoot, sandwiched around a Pebax plate designed to keep the runner’s camber in-line. It also features a Dynamic Heel-Lock System and a translucent mono mesh upper, all on top of a Goodyear rubber outsole. Fast trails await.Read the Review Shop Speed TRL Hyper
Do you run varying terrain and can’t decide on which shoe best fits your needs? Pick up the Salomon Sense Ride 2. This quickly became one of Taylor’s go-to shoes of 2019, based on its comfort and versatility. The shoe tackles all distances and terrain, while keeping you comfortable and secure with an exceptional upper and Salomon’s Quicklace system made from durable Kevlar fibers. While not as aggressive as the S/Lab or the Supercross, the Sense Ride 2 will get you from point A to point B without regrets.Read the Review Shop Sense Ride 2
A beefier sibling to the Speedgoat, the EVO Mafate 2 matches the SG outsole, but comes with an R-BOUND midsole, a lighter version of the R-MAT found on the original Mafate (and one of the more underrated midsole materials, in our opinion). The upper is made of HOKA’s Kevlar-reinforced MATRYX material, with a strip of stretchy Lycra in the forefoot. The towering 35 mm stack height will ensure comfort for triple-digit race distances.Read the Review Shop HOKA EVO Mafate 2
One of the OG’s of the modern trail scene, the Brooks Cascadia returns to greatness. Although it’s the heaviest shoe on this list, it feels lighter on the feet, and actually lost some weight over the last version. It’s also one of the more stable trail shoes out there, featuring a four-point pivot post system to help on irregular trail surfaces. This version also includes a Cordura Mud Guard, an internal saddle, and a new outsole for better grip. Also, it looks really good. The consensus from all three of our reviewers is that this shoe is a winner.Read the Review Shop Brooks Cascadia 14
For a more aggressive Topo, look to the MTN Racer. To be honest, this may be my most favorite trail shoe I’ve reviewed (Robbe speaking). The fit of the upper was snug, with more-than-enough room in the toe box (you may have to toy with the lacing at first). Over technical trails, this shoe shined. I used it during long night runs and for the first 36 miles of my actual all-night 50 miler race, and loved everything about it. The midsole won’t blow your mind, but I found it to be perfect. Not too soft like a HOKA, not too firm like the Kiger— that’s where I like it.Read The Review Shop Topo MTN Racer
This certainly made some waves on its release, mostly due to its 90’s colorway (which, btw, is light grey/tan, not white). The dirtier it gets, the better it looks. Looks aside, this is a fast racing shoe that feels like a rocket when it’s strapped onto the feet. The shoe features Nike React cushioning with a Zoom Air unit in the heel, as well as a segmented rock plate in the forefoot. It moves nimbly over trails, although the traction isn’t great on wet rocks. If you like Nike, you’ll like these.Read the Review Shop Nike Terra Tiger 5 Watch the Review
Not a huge name in the overall running shoe scene, Scarpa nonetheless makes some quality shoes. With a nice cushion and light-yet-rugged Vibram outsole, Matt had enough confidence in these to throw them in his drop bag as a backup for his last 100-miler. The upper is similar to a Salomon Endofit, but with a much more accommodating toe box. It also tends to work well at any distance, from steep technical to flowy single track on the Appalachian Trail.
This is a fresh review, but Erin loved everything about it. No doubt this is a durable shoe, with Kevlar fibers in the heel and a tough-as-nails Graphene outsole, which Erin thinks might be the grippiest she’s ever run in. A great zero-drop option for those who are trying to branch out from Altra.Read the Review Shop inov-8 Terraultra G260
While the MT-3 midsole and outsole is unchanged from the previous version, this version comes without a rock plate, but features an all-new rip-stop mesh upper, as well as midfoot drainage ports. Erin loved running in this, especially in hybrid races that combined road and trail segments. Additionally, the toe box is wide for natural foot movement, but not too wide that it becomes sloppy. For those who aren’t quite willing to make the full jump to zero-drop, you can’t go wrong with the MT-3. It also comes in at a super reasonable price.Read the Review Shop Topo MT-3
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No Saucony Switchback ISO?
I came here after reading the Skechers GOrun Speed TRL Hyper review. I was hoping this was IT until it mentioned lack of traction on wet road. What I’m looking for is a well cushioned shoe to race 5km to 5 miles over mixed trail/grass/road. I have enough of those each year to think about a specific shoe for them. Parts might get wet enough to be greasy but if it was actually muddy I would use a Speed goat or a Challenger ATR. But they are a bit too firm for me on the pavement sections and not race shoe fast.
Any suggestions would be appreciated. Or maybe it doesn’t exist.