We’re comparing the top trail shoes, sometimes known as “trail runners,” in this roundup. These are lightweight “trainers” with an outdoor purpose, not the fabric, three-season hiking boots or low-cut boots we may choose for hillwalking if we want to keep our feet dry. These are the preferred option for mountain and fell runners, and they are also becoming more and more popular with hikers, backpackers, and hillwalkers.

If you’re wondering what is the difference between trail shoes and hiking shoes, then read on.

The Great Outdoors has long promoted the use of lighter-weight hiking footwear in the warmer months, primarily via the reviews and trip reports of Chris Townsend… and many of us have followed in his footsteps. Up until a decade or so ago, I (David) assumed that ‘proper hillwalkers’ had to wear old-fashioned leather boots all year round: that was the uniform. But I tried on lighter boots and then trail shoes, and felt far less tired at the end of the day. My ankles and toes were allowed to flex (just like they were designed to!); and without a so-called waterproof membrane, my feet could breathe and were liberated from sweating and blisters. Apparently, I was not a ‘proper hillwalker’, but that was OK!

best trail shoes for hiking

In 2011, I hiked for two months across the Pyrenees. At that point, I wasn’t quite brave enough to take the plunge completely, and I began the walk in a pair of traditional three season, lined boots. Early on, conditions alternated between very hot and very wet, and I got a nasty case of trench foot. My feet were in such poor shape by week four I thought I would have to stop. Only the liberal application of iodine (quite an old-fashioned remedy; not sure I’d it recommend now!) dried the skin out and saved the hike. I replaced those manky boots with a pair of very lightweight, no-membrane trail runners – and had zero issues thereafter.

The more I used trail shoes for hiking, the more I understood the benefits. Less weight meant I felt nimbler and less clumsy. I paid more attention to where I put my feet and began to engage more with the terrain. My joints became stronger, my footwork more precise. I rarely get blisters now.

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There are tradeoffs, of course. Trail shoes without a ‘waterproof’ membrane mean feet get wet. Conversely, they dry out more quickly when it stops raining. Carrying very heavy loads or moving in very rough terrain can warrant a larger drop in the heel or more protection in the toe than some trail shoes offer – although there are now options to cater for the ultramarathon and skyrace scenes that go a long way to mitigate those concerns, some of which we look at here. And, of course, trail shoes are not built for winter; so we shouldn’t expect them to play well with crampons and axes. But by and large, between April and October, I’m far more fleet of foot in ‘hill pumps’.

How we tested the trail running shoes

Women’s trail running shoes

Fiona is a size U.S. 10.5 / UK 8.5 and has a narrow foot. She is a keen trail and hill runner, as well as a hillwalker. To test the trail shoes, she walked and ran in each pair on the full range of terrain, from forest tracks to off-path mountain slopes, through peat hags, bog and streams and on ground covered in tussocks, heather, rocks, stones and grass. The product weights are per pair and are taken from Fiona’s digital scales.

Men’s trail running shoes

David is a size U.S. 11.5 / UK 10.5 and has a wide forefoot and a narrow heel. He’s an occasional trail and hill runner, and an advocate for trail shoes for walking and backpacking during the summer months. These trail shoes were tested last spring, summer and autumn on- and off-trail in the mountains throughout Scotland, from the north-west to the Borders – walking, backpacking and on the odd hill run.

The best trail running shoes for 2023: our 10 favourites

This article will showcase the top ten pairs of trail shoes for hiking, hillwalking, and backpacking. These are all lightweight alternatives, and while some are expressly built for hiking, several are trail running shoes that also perform well for hiking. Our staff has tested and examined each product.

Altra Lone Peak 7

best trail shoes for hiking: altra Lone Peak 7

  • RRP: $150 | £135
  • Available from: Alpine Trek
  • Weight: 1.38 lb. | 628g
  • Pros: wide toe box accommodates foot splaying, aggressive outsole
  • Cons: wide toe box might not suit those with narrow feet

Heel-to-toe drop: 0mm | Lug depth: 4mm | Materials and features: 25mm stack height, Quick-Dry Air Mesh upper, Maxtrac outsole, Altra EGO midsole, footshaped toe box | Sizes: 6-13 | Women’s version: yes

This picked up the top award in the trail shoe category of The Great Outdoors Awards 2023 with the judges all impressed by all of its hiker-friendly features.

The first ever iteration of the Lone Peak was released in 2011 and it became an instant hit due to its unique features, including a zero-drop platform, foot-shaped toe box and aggressive outsole. Whilst primarily made for trail running, many multi-day hikers began adopting these trail shoes mainly due to the fact that they cater for the kind of foot swelling and splaying that can occur over high mileage.

The new, seventh version of the LonePeak (£135) possesses all the usual traits of past models, but with deeper lugs (4mm) and a new seamless upper material that brings a touch more durability, longevity and comfort, but with only 30g extra in weight overall.

“I’ve used several versions of the Altra on long walks and they’ve been superb,” said head judge Chris Townsend in The Great Outdoors Awards. “It’s the best footwear for long-distance multi-week walks that I’ve worn.”

See more: Altra Lone Peak 7 Wide First Look


Arc’teryx Norvan LD3

Arcteryx Norvan LD3 review

  • RRP: $163 | £150
  • Available from: Alpine Trek
  • Weight: 1.34 lb. | 612g
  • Pros: Grip, support
  • Cons: High ankle cuff

Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm | Lug depth: 4mm | Materials and features: EVA/polyolefin blend midsole, single-layer mesh upper, toe cap, Ariaprene foam tongue, InFuse midsole (42 Shore C), anti-fatigue insert – 85%, internal foot wrap, Vibram MegaGrip outsole | Sizes: 6.5-12.5 | Women’s version: yes

The Norvan LD 3 is a quietly competent generalist. The fit is true to size, with a wide forefoot that allows for swelling in the toes, and a high, narrow heel cup that keeps the foot secure and supported. There’s less stiffness at the ankle in this version, too, which is easier on bony ankles in a deeply cupped shoe.

This was in fact chosen as Highly Commended in The Great Outdoors Awards 2023. Our judges favoured the Norvan LD3 for its balance between cushioning and lateral stiffness, the volume around the toes that allows for swelling after heavy mileage and the ‘sticky’ Vibram sole that gives traction on a variety of surfaces.

Read our full thoughts in our Arc’teryx Norvan LD3 review

Saucony Peregrine 12

 Saucony Peregrine 12

  • RRP: $84.95 | £140
  • Available from: Sports Shoes
  • Weight: 1.33 lb. | 604g
  • Pros: Grip, comfort
  • Cons: Lateral and heel support

Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm | Lug depth: 5mm | Materials and features: Rockplate, PWRRUN midsole, PWRTRACK outsole, recycled mesh upper | Sizes: 6-13 | Women’s version: yes

The Peregrine’s grip is probably best in test. The lugs are 5mm and don’t bat an eyelid on any ground, wet or dry. The forefoot is very wide, and the heel is quite wide, which translates into a very comfortable shoe with loads of room in the toebox. There’s very little lateral support, so the shoe bends side to side when contouring.

Read our full thoughts in our Saucony Peregrine 12 review

Montrail Trinity AG

best trail shoes for hiking: Montrail Trinity AG

  • RRP: $150 | £135
  • Available from: Columbia
  • Weight: 1.51 lb | 688g
  • Pros: Comfort, lacing system, grip
  • Cons: Relative lack of ground feel

Heel-to-toe drop: 12mm | Lug depth: 4mm | Materials and features: Adaptrax outsole, eco insole, Techlite midsole, mesh upper with asymmetrical lacing, Haptic print and Navic fit | Sizes: 6-14 | Women’s version: yes

Asymmetric lacing, 12mm heel-to-toe drop and lots of cushioning in the midsole make for a springy, energetic shoe. They’re great for running on the flat but less than ideal for hillwalking, backpacking or even ‘fastpacking’. The Montrails are better suited to groomed trails – once off-piste, I want to know what I’m walking on.

Read our full thoughts in our Montrail Trinity AG review

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor 2

best trail shoes for hiking: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor 2

  • RRP: $165 | £150
  • Available from: Sports Shoes & Alpine Trek
  • Weight: 1.97 | 896g
  • Pros: Support, protection, grip
  • Cons: Less breathable than others here

Heel-to-toe drop: 9mm | Lug depth: 4.5mm | Materials and features: full-length rock plate, wraparound rand, FriXion rubber outsole, recycled laces and footbed, air mesh upper, variable thickness EVA endurance midsole, Impact Brake System at the heel. | Sizes: 5-14 | Women’s version: yes

The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor 2s are designed to be durable and protective, and are the heaviest and stiffest offering in this test. There’s loads of lateral stiffness and stability from various inserts, a rock plate and beefed-up midsole and a big wraparound rand with a toe bumper. They may feel too stiff to run in, but that burliness makes them excellent for backpacking.

Read our full thoughts in our La Sportiva Ultra Raptor 2

Inov-8 Roclite G315 GTX – Best Buy (women’s)

best trail shoes for hiking: inov-8 Roclite G315 GTX V2

  • RRP: $190 | £155
  • Available from: Sports Shoes
  • Weight: 1.47 lb. | 668g
  • Pros: Fit, waterproofing, grip, stability 
  • Cons: Price, limited upper sizes for women

Heel-to-toe drop: 8mm | Lug depth: 6mm | Materials and features: graphene G-GRIP outsole, textile upper, mid-width, Powerflow Max foam midsole, 6mm EVA footbed, Gore-Tex membrane, mid-heel lock panel, META-PLATE, front-end bumper | Sizes: 3-8.5 | Men’s version: yes

The inov-8 G315 is one of the best all-round performers I’ve ever tested. The outsole, with its deeper lugs, gives great traction, whilst a slimmer sole offers good ground-feel and ankle stability. There is less cushioning than other shoes on test and this could leave your feet weary if you have miles of hard-packed trails to cover. They are ideal for outings where there is a mix of walking and running on softer and rougher terrain.

Read our full thoughts in our Inov-8 Roclite G315 GTX V2 Review

Merrell MTL MQM

best trail shoes for hiking: Merrell MTL MQM

  • RRP: $150 | £135
  • Available from: Sports ShoesSports Direct
  • Weight: 1.38 lb. | 628g
  • Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, supportive, durable upper, cushioning  
  • Cons: Limited upper sizes for women

Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm | Lug depth: 5mm | Materials and features: Vibram MegaGrip and Vibram Idrogrip combined outsole, mesh and TPU upper, 100% recycled laces and webbing, internal bootie, TPU waterproof shell, microfibre lining, removable PU footbed, 100% recycled mesh footbed cover, rock plate, 50% recycled removable EVA foam footbed, FloatPro Foam midsole, pull-on rear loop | Sizes: 2.5-8.5 | Men’s version: yes

The internal bootie supports the mid part of the foot and under the arch, whilst the lacing system is full and adaptable. There is enough bounce and comfort on hard trails but not so much that it drains energy. They do not have a waterproof membrane, but they managed to keep out a lot of wet until damp slowly seeped in.

Read our full thoughts in our Merrell MTL MQM Review

Salomon OUTpulse

best trail shoes for hiking: Salomon Outpulse

  • RRP: $130 | £115
  • Available from: Alpine Trek
  • Weight: 1.56 lb. | 712g
  • Pros: Comfortable, supportive, cushioning, price, size range
  • Cons: Flexibility

Heel-to-toe drop: 10mm | Lug depth: 4mm | Materials and features: All Terrain Contagrip rubber outsole, synthetic upper, textile lining, SensiFit construction, OrthoLite insole EVA mid-sole with reverse camber, Fuze Surge foam compound sole, Energy Blade TPU plate, All Terrain Contagrip rubber outsole, PFC-free, protective toecap, pull-on rear tab | Sizes: 3.5-10.5 | Men’s version: yes

The Salomon OUTpulse is of average weight, comfort, support and underfoot flexibility. The sole is a little too stiff and ‘clumpy’-feeling for easy ‘flowy’ running, but it’s fine for a job here and there. It’s comfortable to wear but lacks a little wow factor. However, the price is good for a solid, no-nonsense shoe.

Read our full thoughts in our Salomon OUTpulse Review

Keen NXIS EVO Waterproof

best trail shoes for hiking: Keen NXIS Evo

  • RRP: $180 | £130
  • Available from: Sports Shoes & Alpine Trek
  • Weight: 1.71 lb. | 776g
  • Pros: Durable, wide fit, cushioning, size range 
  • Cons: Weight

Heel-to-toe drop: 7mm | Lug depth: 4mm | Materials and features: Mesh upper with TPU overlays, injected EVA midsole, KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN rubber outsole, PU insole, KonnectFit heel-capture system, stability shank, speed-lace webbing system, KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane, Eco anti-odour, PFC-free DWR | Sizes: 2.5-9 | Men’s version: yes

The Keen NXIS is a fairly stiff shoe, with a solid outsole and an oversized toe cap. In hot weather, the thick and waterproof uppers made my feet feel a bit sweaty, so I would keep these for chillier days. The sole and uppers are stiffer than my normal running shoes, which is fine if you do more walking than running.

Read our full thoughts in our Keen NXIS EVO Waterproof review

Salewa Dropline Speed Hikers

best trail shoes for hiking: Salewa Dropline Speed Hikers

  • RRP: $120 | £135
  • Weight: 1.56 lb. | 712g
  • Pros: Snug fit, comfort, cushioning
  • Cons: Particularly narrow, weight discrepancy

Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm | Lug depth: 4mm | Materials and features: own-brand ‘POMOCA’ butylic compound rubber sole; upper: 3F System with Kevlar cables, Exa Shell Over Injected 3D Cage, stretchable air mesh; midsole: Performance EVA , rubber toe cup, stretch gaiter, anti-rock heel cup, Ortholite footbed | Sizes: 3-9 | Men’s version: yes

The Dropline Speed Hikers are best reserved for hard-packed trails – especially dry ones because they are not waterproof. The ‘stretch gaiter’, which is a stretchy tongue, adds to the comfort levels because it sits neatly and flatly on the top of the foot and doesn’t move about. Just make sure you tie the slippery laces in a double knot to stop them coming undone.

Read our full thoughts in our Salewa Dropline Speed Hikers review


What makes a good trail shoe for hiking?


Soles should offer a level of grip to suit your chosen terrain, and you’ll see deeper and more densely packed lugs on shoes that aim to offer more grip on wet, muddy and steep ground.


Traditional trail walking shoes are usually designed with a stiffer sole because the motion of walking, compared to running, requires less flexibility. If you want to use your trail shoes for walking and running, it’s a good idea to ensure they are flexible enough to complement your natural running gait. There is a compromise to be found here, though, because a shoe that is too flexible will not necessarily be as comfortable when walking long-distance when more support is usually required.

Rock plate

Some shoes have a rock plate, which is a material embedded between the outsole and the midsole for underfoot protection. It can add stability and stiffness to the shoe and helps to protect the soles of your feet from sharp rocks and stones.


The level of cushioning is a personal choice, but you should think about where you will be walking and running. A shallower sole usually means there is less cushioning and better ‘ground feel’, whilst deeper soles are likely to offer greater levels of cushioning. On rough terrain, a deeper sole may result in instability for some.

Heel-to-toe drop

Regardless of the depth of sole, shoes offer a range of heel-to-toe drop and that is the difference in height – usually in mm – of the stacked heel to the forefoot. Road running shoes will normally have a larger drop, often with the aim of protecting the Achilles tendon from being overly stretched, whilst trail running shoes usually have a much shallower drop.


Trail shoes need to be durable and offer protection against abrasion caused by vegetation, rocks, stones, scree and mud. Expect to see a protective rand around the base of the upper where it meets the sole, as well as toe bumpers or caps and heel protectors. There should still be a good degree of upper flexibility so foot flex and breathability aren’t inhibited.


A built-in waterproof liner, such as Gore-Tex, will offer some waterproofing if you are walking or running in the rain, on wet ground or when crossing streams and rivers. Waterproof liners can make the shoe less breathable, so you end up with sweatier feet in warm conditions. To stop the wet getting in at the ankle area, you can wear lightweight running gaiters.


Whether traditional lacing or another system, the aim should be for an even tension along the length of the foot.


Weight should be considered against sturdiness. Generally, very lightweight shoes will not be as long-lasting or durable as a heavier shoe; although this also does depend on the materials and construction quality.

Recycled materials

More now than ever, brands are keen to inform consumers about recycled content in their products. This is good news, but it’s important to consider the potential for ‘greenwashing’ and also more than just the materials. How and where the products are made, end-of-life recycling schemes, sustainability certifications and pledges are all worth considering.