The North Face
Credit: TNF

The North Face Ultra Trail 

($120; thenorthface.com)

Weight: 255 grams

Best For: A minimalist feel with enough protection and traction for just about any trail.

As soon as we laced these kicks, we noticed a bounce in our step; the light-and-flexible feel begged to be run. When we let them go, the toe-to-heel studs dug into the muckiest mud. The uppers breathed well, preventing sweaty dogs, and have a tight enough weave to keep everything out, except full soakers and the finest sand. Despite the soft upper, they feel surprisingly stable on rough ground.

Bottom Line: At about 255 grams, these are a good choice if you want a barefoot feel but still need protection on rough terrain.

La Sportiva
Credit: La Sportiva

La Sportiva Bushido

($125; sportiva.com)

Weight: 255 grams

Best For: Mountain running.

Mud, grass, roots, rocks and even slush — we ran through it all with the Bushido and never once slid or felt unstable. A strip of soft rubber on the outsole grabbed rocks and roots, while the multi-directional lug pattern wrapped onto the upper, biting into everything and edging in angled terrain. Despite a stiff and protective front of the shoe, they roll smoothly, though they felt most at home on trails.

Bottom Line: If you like your trails rough, this should be your shoe.

Salomon
Credit: Salomon

Salomon X-Scream CityTrail

($110; salomon.com)

Weight: 290 grams

Best For: Runs that mix pavement, grass and trail.

My typical run may involve trail, but I live in the city so I usually pound pavement too. Trail shoes aren't ideal and neither are dedicated road-runners; but a hybrid like the X-Scream CityTrail series is perfect. The X-Scream has enough EVA foam padding to cushion long city blocks, but also enough grip in the lightly lugged outsole and support in the midsole to handle light trail duty and lumpy green spaces.

Bottom Line: Most trail running city dwellers should own a shoe like this.

Hoka One One
Credit: Hoka One One

Hoka One One Stinson Trail

($160; hokaoneone.com)

Weight: 340 grams

Best For: Those nursing injuries or logging serious distances.

Several people told us these shoes got them running again after being sidelined with ankle or foot injuries. The Hoka One One’s separate themselves from the pack with their super thick, super soft and lightweight foam. On the trail, we felt like we were floating with noticeably decreased pounding, which Hoka says results in less fatigue — but sitting so high off the ground, our ankles also felt vulnerable to twists and sprains.

Bottom Line: Keep them to smoother trails and these monster shoes will help you crush out the training miles.

Vasque
Credit: Vasque

Vasque Ultra SST

($190; vasque.com)

Weight: 283 grams

Best For: Serious runners.

No laces, no insole and a foamy midsole rising up the arch — there's nothing normal about these high-tech racers. A Boa wire system kills the need for laces. Then, Vasque eliminated cement, stitching the upper directly to the midsole and cutting weight to 283 grams. The result: a shoe that fits like a slipper, but provides a responsive and supportive ride. Take note: it fits wide.

Bottom Line: With a minimalist six-millimetre drop from heel to toe, it is best reserved for efficient runners.

Plan your next great adventure with explore!
Off the beaten path locations, tips and tricks, interviews with intrepid explorers and more.