Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes 2020
Written By: Ben Mounsey
Shoes are undoubtedly the most important piece of running kit, as the right pair can help to enhance performance, prevent injury and provide comfort during exercise. Running shoes are as diverse as the people wearing them and with hundreds of types to choose from, it can often prove difficult finding the right pair to match our requirements. That’s why our Trail Running Ambassador, Ben Mounsey, has reviewed his top 10 Trail Running shoes of 2020*, with a focus on key factors such as sizing, comfort, cushioning, support, grip and protection.
*All prices correct as of 27.11.2020.
1. Inov-8 TERRAULTRA G270
|Length||True to size|
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 4 | Cushioning: 4 | Support: 4 | Grip: 4 | Protection: 4|
As an improved version of the already fantastic TERRAULTRA G 260, somehow inov-8 have managed to make some small and significant changes, making this trail shoe extremely difficult to beat. Firstly, it feels faster and lighter than its predecessor, mainly because of the sleek design of the upper materials, which almost seamlessly bond together. This also offers more protection for your feet against sharp rocks and debris.
Most importantly this shoe gives back a serious amount of energy return, noticeable from the very first step. They provide tons of bounce and cushioning, exactly where you need it. I felt this much more in the mid-sole and forefoot, particularly when running on hard-packed trails. With ample grip (4mm studs), supreme comfort and sticky traction designed to last even longer, the new TERRAULTRA G 270 is the perfect choice for both training and racing.
In terms of sizing, the TERRAULTRA is rated as 5 on the inov-8 width scale, making it the widest fit they offer for a shoe. Despite having thin feet, I haven’t experienced any issues with these at all. They are also true to size in length, as I always wear a UK 10 for inov-8 shoes.
My only slight criticism of this shoe is the shape and feel of the tongue. I would prefer a longer, thicker design with more padding to further increase the comfort of the shoe once the laces have been tied.
All things considered, this is my favourite trail shoe of 2020 and my top recommendation overall.
2. LA SPORTIVA JACKAL
|Price||£116.99 (RRP £129.99)|
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 4.5 | Cushioning: 3.5 | Support: 4 | Grip: 4 | Protection: 3.5|
As worn and recommended by ultra-runners John Kelly and Sabrina Verjee, the La Sportiva Jackal is a fantastic all-round performer. Impressing in every category, the Jackal comfortably handles all types of off-road terrain and is suitable for any distance.
Despite being a wide fit, I found them to be very comfortable to wear. This is mostly thanks to the design of the tongue and lacing system, both allowing the shoe to fit snugly and securely over my feet, locking them in place for added stability during exercise on uneven surfaces. This padded tongue is attached to the uppers by means of an in-built gaiter, which also helps to repel dirt and debris. In my opinion, it is the shape, size and width of the tongue that makes this design work so effectively.
The Jackal has plenty of cushioning, although anyone looking for something with even more added bounce might be better suited to the Hoka Speedgoat or the inov-8 TERRAULTRA G270. However, what this shoe does offer is more stability then the majority of its rivals. The uppers are almost seamlessly bonded together and built to last. The toe-bumper provides tons of protection and the built-in rock plate in the midsole ensures ultimate underfoot protection.
I was also impressed with the quality and performance of the grip. The multi-directional 3mm lugs can confidently handle all kinds of hard-packed trails, in both wet and dry conditions. It’s safe to say that the all-round performance of the La Sportiva Jackal has helped to cement its place in my list of top-ten recommended trail shoes for 2020.
In terms of sizing, I opted for a UK 10.5 and found them to be a perfect fit. Therefore, I would recommend opting for half a size bigger than normal.
3. SCOTT KINABALU ULTRA RC
|Length||True to size|
|Width||Precision - Standard fit|
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 4.5 | Cushioning: 4 | Support: 4 | Grip: 3 | Protection: 3.5|
There’s no denying it, the Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC is a thing of real beauty. And what immediately caught my attention was the detailed, lightweight design and quality feel, a trail shoe perfectly suited to fast activity on hard-packed trails. It’s worth pointing out that although this shoe has ample grip to cope with a variety of terrain, it is not suited to soft and muddy conditions, and has been specifically built with man-made trails in mind. In terms of terrain, a good example of a race in the UK for which they would be best suited, would be the Snowdon International, where grip is not the most significant factor – but travelling light and fast over hard terrain is more important. This shoe would be ideal for the long and rocky descent, as it’s cushioned, highly responsive and provides a serious amount of energy return – providing some welcome salvation for very tired legs.
If you’ve previously worn Scott shoes before then you will not be disappointed with the Kinabalu Ultra RC. This shoe provides outstanding levels of comfort and support thanks to the kinetic foam midsole and the upper construction. The latter has a super-breathable mesh and is made from very durable and lightweight materials. The tongue is just the right size and shape to cradle and support your feet, complete with a padded pillow at the front to protect and cushion the top of your foot exactly where the laces are tied. Around the heel, the material is thicker, padded and really helps to lock your feet in place, ensuring high-levels of support and stability, extremely noticeable when twisting and turning across rocky and uneven surfaces. This lightweight design allows for flexibility and manoeuvrability for running at high speeds on technical terrain. So, if you’re looking for a racing shoe built for tough man-made trails, that then look no further than the Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC – it’s the shoe that screams Go Faster!
In terms of sizing, a UK 10 fit me perfectly and I would say the width is between a precision and standard fit.
4. HOKA SPEEDGOAT 4
|Width||Feels true to size|
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 4 | Cushioning: 5 | Support: 3 | Grip: 4 | Protection: 2.5|
If you’re looking for a trail shoe with some added bounce, then look no further than the Hoka Speedgoat 4. The comfort and cushioning that this model provides is noticeable in every part of the shoe. Just like the inov-8 TERRAULTRA G270, the Speedgoat 4 have injected pure joy back into my training, making every trail run a truly pleasurable experience. Switching from road to trail has never been easier, to the extent where most of my autumn and winter training on the roads has been done wearing these shoes. This is undoubtedly one of my favourite trail shoes of the year.
The SpeedGoat 4 is a lightweight trail shoe that soaks up the big miles, perfectly suited to running long and ultra-distances. They are ideal for training, however, I wouldn’t personally recommend them as a racing shoe for short distances, purely because of their bulkier shape and fit.
In terms of grip, I was quite impressed with how the Speedgoat’s Vibram sole handled the switch from different types of surfaces and terrain. They perform well in both wet and dry conditions, although more suited to the latter. The uppers are made from a breathable mesh and offer some protection against sharp rocks, although not as much as other comparable shoes. The sides of the shoe are the most vulnerable areas, although the deep cushioned sole, does help to alleviate this small issue as it raises your feet further from the ground. My only other slight criticism is that they could do with even more lateral support to help prevent movement inside the shoe whilst running over rugged and unpredictable terrain.
The width of this shoe feels true to size and it is worth knowing that there is a wider version of the Speedgoat 4 also available. In terms of length, I have found that Hoka generally fit smaller than usual. In most brands I wear a size UK 10, but I wear UK 10.5 in these.
5. ADIDAS TERREX TWO PARLEY TRAIL
|Price||£116.95 (RRP £129.95)|
|Length||Fits slightly larger|
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 4 | Cushioning: 4 | Support: 3 | Grip: 4 | Protection: 3.5|
The award for the best-looking trail running shoe of 2020 goes to Adidas, for this unique and striking design. And the plaudits don’t just end there. This is one of the best performing trail shoes of the year and comes highly recommended.
Comfort and cushioning once again take centre stage, but the all-round qualities of this particular model make it very hard to beat. In a similar way to the Nike Pegasus Trail 2, the sock-like design wraps around your feet to provide a secure and snug fit. There is even the same cushioned pillow that sits behind the heel which adds further comfort during exercise.
Full marks to Adidas for creating a flexible upper which is made from up-cycled plastic waste. Not only do the knitted uppers look good, but they feel great and help to increase flexibility, and breathability. They offer adequate support but like most other shoes in this review, I would prefer even more lateral support, especially for extreme and rugged terrain.
A Continental™ rubber outsole provides the grip and having tested this on various off-road surfaces in both wet and dry conditions I was impressed with the level of performance. The deep Boost midsole ensures that your feet are well cushioned, delivering plenty of energy return, particularly on longer trail runs.
In terms of sizing, I would say they are just about true to fit, but if anything, they are slightly large in length. This shoe allows for a wide fit and also has a wide toe-box.
Overall, I can confidently say that Adidas have succeeded in creating a well-built, durable shoe that not only looks fantastic but is fully fit for purpose.
6. SALOMON S-LAB ULTRA 3
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 5 | Cushioning: 3 | Support: 4 | Grip: 3 | Protection: 3|
I can confidently say that the Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3 is, without doubt, the most comfortable trail shoe that I’ve ever worn. To the extent that they feel more like slippers than performance footwear.
The EVA sockliner perfectly moulds and fits to the shape of your foot, even more securely than other shoes with similar style designs. To further enhance levels of comfort, the drawstring lacing system, a trademark feature of all Salomon shoes, allows the user to securely tighten the laces and lock feet securely in place. In addition, the in-built padded tongue sits comfortably on the front of your foot and the lace pocket provides easy storage for the Quick Fit lacing system.
This particular shoe is built for speed and has been specifically designed for light trails, ideal for racing because of its sleek, lightweight design. Although they don’t provide as much cushioning and bounce as the other trail shoes on the market, they do however, have a very robust midsole, with tough high-rebound technology. Feet are therefore well protected from sharp rocks underneath the shoe, but feel slightly more exposed above because of the lightweight, breathable uppers. As with all Salomon products, these shoes are extremely well-made, built from quality lightweight materials, near-seamlessly bonded uppers and finished with clinical detailing.
So, if you’re looking for a trail racing shoe designed for travelling fast and light, whilst providing the highest levels of comfort, then the Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3 is an ideal choice.
In terms of sizing, this shoe is a standard fit, so not particularly suited to athletes with wider feet. I wear a UK 10.5 in all Salomon shoes and would recommend ordering at least half a size bigger than your usual size.
7. NIKE PEGASUS TRAIL 2
|Length||True to size|
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 4.5 | Cushioning: 4 | Support: 3 | Grip: 3 | Protection: 3|
The Nike Pegasus Trail 2 is a very striking-looking shoe with a brightly coloured and bold design.
In many ways it is comparable with the Hoka Speedgoat, as comfort and cushioning are clearly the main features. I particularly love the sock-like material around the back of the heel and ankle, coupled with the snug fit of the perforated tongue, which has an in-built gaiter to help keep out dirt and debris. Also, inside the back of the shoe, is a cushioned pillow for added comfort and protection which has been ergonomically designed to sit behind the heel. These key features collectively help to make this one of the most comfortable pairs of trail shoes that I have tested.
In my opinion, it is also the most breathable, with perforations in the fabric to increase airflow and enhance ventilation. However, it does leave certain parts of your feet more exposed to sharp rocks, particularly at the front of the shoe. And although the lightweight upper does provide adequate support, I would personally prefer even more help prevent lateral movement inside the shoe, especially on uneven and challenging terrain.
With substantial grip capable of tackling a multitude of off-road surfaces, this shoe is a great all-round model and a sure-fire hit for anyone looking for a plush and comfortable ride.
In terms of sizing, I found the Nike Pegasus Trail to be true to size, standard width but plenty of room in the toe box.
8. ASICS FUJITRABUCO SKY TRAIL
|Price||£107.99 (RRP £134.99)|
|Width||Precision - Standard fit|
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 4 | Cushioning: 3.5 | Support: 3.5 | Grip: 3 | Protection: 3|
Comparable with the Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3, this shoe has been specifically designed with fast, lightweight performance in mind. The GEL-FUJITRABUCO SKY TRAIL has a colourful, eye-catching design and in my opinion, is a fantastic addition to the ASICS trail running range.
Like all Salomon trail shoes, this particular ASICS model has a drawstring lacing system and a handy lace pocket on the tongue for easy storage. This really helps to lock feet in place and works very effectively. Although, I would personally prefer a slightly more padded tongue to further enhance the levels of comfort and protection.
What I like most about this shoe is the shape and feel, ideal for racing and perfectly suited to my thin feet. They are effectively a stripped-back, lightweight version of the GEL-FUJITRABUCO 8, which are slightly bulkier and heavier in design, but do offer more protection and support. Depending on personal preference, I would recommend both models for either racing or training.
At just 221g, the SKY TRAIL is one of the lightest trail running shoes on the market and for a shoe that weighs so little, they offer a surprising amount of support and protection. In addition, the grip coped well on a range of off-road terrain and FlyteFoam mid-sole and Gel in the heel provides ample cushioning, especially when travelling downhill on hard-packed trails at speed.
Please be aware that this shoe runs half a size smaller than usual, so best to opt for a slightly larger size. In terms of width, I would describe it as a precision to standard fit. The SKY TRAIL is a neutral shoe and the GEL-FUJITRABUCO 8 is designed for over-pronators.
9. SAUCONY PEREGRINE 10
|Length||Fits slightly small|
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 4 | Cushioning: 3.5 | Support: 3 | Grip: 3 | Protection: 3|
The Saucony Peregrine 10 is a fantastic looking shoe, available in a choice of colourways, including an exciting bright orange design.
This lightweight shoe is ideally suited to dry conditions, however, it is also very versatile and ideal for both training and racing. Compared with other Saucony models, the Peregrine 10 has an increased number of lugs in the tread pattern in a variety of shapes and sizes (5mm in depth). Designed to cope with a multitude of terrains, the PWRTRAC sole performs well on all types of off-road surfaces.
This shoe also has a rock plate built into the mid-sole which helps to protect feet against sharp rocks and stones. It provides high-levels of comfort and stability, although this is a snug-fitting shoe in terms of length. If you prefer a roomier fit, perhaps opt for half a size up on your usual choice.
The uppers are made from a lightweight breathable mesh and I particularly enjoyed wearing this model for running on dry, hard-packed trails during the summer months. Overall, this is definitely an improved version of the previous model and as a neutral, all-round training shoe, it will suit all types of trail runners from beginner to elite.
However, if you are looking for a tough and robust winter trail shoe with a more aggressive tread, then you might want to consider the Peregrine 10 ST (Sloppy Terrain), as this particular model is water-resistant and has been specifically designed to tackle wet and muddy terrain. The ST is a good, solid all-round training shoe, perfectly suited for extreme conditions during the Autumn and Winter months and is the most aggressive trail shoe in the Saucony off-road range.
10. MERRELL MTL LONG SKY
|RATINGS (out of 5)||Comfort: 3 | Cushioning: 2 | Support: 3 | Grip: 4 | Protection: 4|
The Merrell MTL Long Sky is a trail shoe specifically designed for long-distance running on mountainous, alpine terrain.
This is the first time I’ve ever worn anything from Merrell, so understandably it took me a few runs to get used to the fit and feel of the shoes. However, I found that the more I wore them, the more I liked them.
The Long Sky Trail is a hard-wearing shoe made to cope with heavy duty mileage and built to last. The shoe is a wide fit, not my preferred choice, so I really had to tighten the laces. Thankfully, the unique lacing system and tongue construction is just about the best I’ve ever used, allowing for plenty of adjustment and providing a secure and comfortable fit. The laces and loops attached to the uppers are both made from very hard-wearing materials, helping to increase their durability and life-span. This lacing system is my favourite feature of the shoe and it really made a difference in terms of providing more comfort, especially on longer training runs.
The uppers are made from a rugged mesh, which helped to keep my feet protected and increase breathability. The heel mesh is super-strong and durable, providing enhanced support but also allowing enough flexibility and movement when running on challenging off-road terrain.
The outsole of the Long Sky is very unique in design, as Merrell have opened up the rubber in the midfoot, essentially breaking the sole into three sections and therefore improving both flexibility and traction. The midsole is made from a firm foam material, which includes a medial post that sits in between the two pieces of rubber on the outsole. This has been designed to give more support, particularly for longer distances.
Overall, I’ve found this shoe to be extremely hard-wearing, adaptable to changing terrain and a solid, dependable choice for long and ultra-distance running.