Image of the January 2021 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
January 2021 Issue
Home / Articles / Gear Guides

2021 trail running shoes

Photo: Ryan Domenico De Dominicis

Lightweight trail running shoes are built to cover long distances, fast.

A good fit is vital to keeping your foot stable over uneven terrain. It is also essential for comfort: while some models might stretch and soften once they are broken in – and even while you are using them as they adjust to swelling feet – a shoe that is uncomfortable from the start, will remain uncomfortable.

Usually made from quick-drying and super light synthetic materials. Expect plenty of mesh panels and a breathable lining to help keep feet cool.

Technical midsoles are made from various shock-absorbing materials that also help rebound and propel the user through their stride. Midsoles often include a plate to protect the underfoot from stones and other trail debris.

Heel to toe drop
This is the height difference between the heel and toe and can be anywhere from 15mm-0mm. The less heel drop, the more minimalist the shoe will be.

Wide-spaced, dirt-shedding lugs are common. But don’t just look for shoes with the most lugs – manufacturers use a variety of rubber compounds to provide traction while also offering a long-lasting tread.

Toe box and heel
A reinforced toe box with synthetic overlays will protect toes from bumps. It should be wide enough to allow toes to spread out during runs. The heel needs to be cupped securely to prevent it moving about and blistering.

A good rule of thumb is to buy a shoe half a size larger than your regular shoes and, if you plan on doing ultra distances, think about getting at least one pair that is a full size larger – feet can swell up to two sizes over these longer distances.

Hoka One One EVO Mafate 2 $329.95
For rugged trails and featuring MATRYX fabric and a breathable vamp, Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole with aggressive 5mm lugs, gusseted tongue, compressed EVA midsole and rubberised foam base, early-stage Meta-Rocker, sculpted arch pods for medial control, 4mm drop. 582g (m), 502g (w).


Scarpa Spin Ultra $289.99
Award-winning shoe for moderate to ultra-distance runs. Breathable mesh upper with an external TPU cage for support, Sock-Fit construction, stretch textile lining, TPU toe cap, dual-density EVA midsole and Vibram Megagrip outsole, 6mm drop. 540g (m), 500g (w).


Hoka One One Stinson ATR 6 $299.99
For rugged trails and featuring a broad high volume CMEVA midsole, engineered mesh uppers with recycled yarn, plush heel collar, TPU-reinforced toe cap, late stage Meta-Rocker, closely spaced 4mm lugs, 5mm drop. 664g (m), 556g (w).


The North Face Ultra Traction Futurelight $270
For technical trails and featuring a breathable and waterproof Futurelight membrane, supportive mesh upper, no-sew TPU rand and heel counter, eco-friendly OrthoLite Hybrid footbed, FastFoam midsole system, EXTS outsole with alternating lug heights, 4mm drop. 678g (m), 602g (w).


Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 GTX $269.95
All terrain shoe with textured TPU toe, compression-moulded EVA foam midsole, early-stage Meta-Rocker, dual-layer mesh upper, recycled yarn, internal heel counter minimises heel-lift, podular EVA outsole with rubber overlays, 5mm drop. 558g.


The North Face Ultra Endurance XF $240
For technical trails and featuring dynamic air mesh upper, no-sew TPU toe cap and midfoot overlays, gusseted tongue, eco-friendly OrthoLite Hybrid footbed, XtraFoam midsole system, EXTS outsole with dual-density 3mm lugs, 6mm drop. 640g (m), 514g (w).


Inov-8 TrailTalon 290 $229.99
Designed for long-distance runs with Adapterfit technology which adapts to the foot swelling on longer runs, shock-absorbing Power Flow midsole, close-fitting heel, wide toe-box, rubber toe, gusseted tongue, Tri-C Sticky outsole, 8mm drop. 580g (m/w).