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The Best Men's Trail Running Shoes of 2017

Trail Running Shoes Field Tested by Active Junky

Men's Trail Running Shoes

Field Tested by Active Junky

Active Junky lives by the motto "More Amazing Days," promoting active and outdoor lifestyles of all kinds. Their experts field-tested and evaluated each of the products in the following guide. Check out their top picks for Men's Trail Running Shoes.

Lead Reviewer: Peter Reese
Editor: Melanie Ott
 

As the snow melts and spring showers ebb, trail runners are taking to the mountains. Active Junky hit the trails with 10 pairs of men's trail running shoes ranging from conventional models to alternative. Each pair was trail tested over a period of six weeks in the morning hours between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. on a course located on a mesa above Golden, Colorado.

A clear result of Active Junky's testing and evaluation was the varying differences in "best for" use. No one shoe was best for every trail condition or terrain or even every runner's goals. Because of this, one shoe may prove more ideal for one runner than another depending the "where," "when" and "why" associated with his or her trail preferences and running style.

While each has a con, every trail running shoe has more than one impressive attribute that landed it on our best men's trail running shoes list. Active Junky calls out the main attribute for each pair that makes it standout:

Key Attributes

PERFORMANCE assesses the shoe’s ability to confidently navigate varying trail conditions at speed

QUALITY ranges from materials selection to solid construction and a well-considered lacing system

DESIGN includes incursion of debris, foot protection, avoidance of abrasion and fatigue

INNOVATION takes into account the brand's dedication to improving current technology and adding to the industry

VALUE considers the average life-span and longevity of the shoe while still providing peak performance

Best Men's Trail Running Shoes: What to Look For

Upper

The top portion of a trail running shoe, also known as the upper, holds your shoe in place and is generally made of lightweight yet durable material for more nimble action while still protecting your foot. This is often a mesh or synthetic compound. Many different trail running shoe brands offer waterproof options as well.

Gore-Tex is a popular name for waterproof shoes. The laminate membrane keeps water out while allowing moisture and sweat vapor to escape out, keeping the foot dry from the inside and the outside. A number of products included here are Gore-Text trail running shoes. NeoShell from Polartec is another lightweight, waterproof material.

Midsole

The midsole of men's trail running shoes offers cushion while cradling the foot in place. One of the most common materials found in midsoles is EVA, ethylene vinyl acetate. This material is porous and therefore lightweight. Flexible while durable, EVA provides comfort and support in a shoe's midsole.

The midsole shape can add extra performance to your run. Some are designed with a shape to naturally roll your foot forward and propel you forward

Outer Sole

The outsole protects the foot from the trail while providing traction, grip and even rebound and a little bounce in each step. To protect from sharp rocks, sticks and other debris you many encounter on the trail, the outer sole of most men's trail running shoes is thicker than with typical running shoes and generally includes deeper, heavy-duty lugs.

A grippy material that doesn't slip off rocks and other terrain is also vital for the outsole. Vibram outer sole is popular in trail running shoes as the unique compounds offers some solid traction on both wet and dry surfaces. Continental rubber, the kind used in Continental Tires, lends its technology to some trail running shoes as well.

What We Found

Those seeking speedy and light-footed trail action would benefit from IceBug Zeal2 RB9X, Salomon Speedcross Pro and Newton Running Boco Sol models, all being lightweight and featuring midsoles that encourage forward motion coupled with support.

Multi-sport athletes wanting to expand their cross-training can choose from Treksta Mega Wave, Adidas Outdoor Terrex Boost and Altra Lone Peak. These models are in it for the long haul and keep your feet protected and your body naturally aligned to avoid fatigue.

Focused on specific running scenarios, many brands standout for different features that cater to those use cases. Merrell All Out Terra Trail shines for quick and fun trail runs. Topo Athletic Hydroventure handles any wet trail being a completely waterproof trail running shoe. Hoka One One Mafate 4 offers all-over confident trail handling. Scarpa Neutron handles varying trail conditions, switching from mud to rocky trail, like a champ.

As a whole, these ten best trail running shoes selected represent the industry's move toward a preference for designing models dedicated to specific conditions. With the goal of intertwining ergonomic and innovative construction, the trend in the best trail running shoes is focusing on construction meant for shoe longevity without sacrificing overall foot comfort. Have a look at each product's evaluation to learn more about how the shoe was constructed and about Active Junky's experience testing it on the trails. 

If you're looking for heavy-duty hiking boots, take a look at Active Junky's guide to The Best Hiking Boots. For even more gear and product reviews, check out ActiveJunky.com