SHOES & BOOTS

Best Trail Running Shoes for Women: Choosing the Right Shoes for the Right Occasion

Conquer Those Mountain Hikes With This Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 2
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Do you love running off road, but you are afraid of hurting your feet or ankles due to harsh terrain? Also, do you need running shoes that are lightweight and comfortable, yet offer great support and are durable? If so, then the solution for your problems are the best trail running shoes you can find on the market.

Since trail running is a sport that is becoming more and more popular, sport shoe manufacturers have focused on making models that offer the best of two worlds, running and hiking. They are light and comfortable as a pair of classic running shoes, but durable, strong, and offer protection and support as hiking shoes.

A couple of persons wearing trail-running-shoes-for-women

Now that we have your attention, let us dive into the world of trail running shoes for women. At the end of this guide, you will know the certain features to check out, as well as feel confident about making a purchase after you see the shoes we review later. Now, let us begin.

Our Top Picks

Product NameWeightHeel to Toe DropShoe CategorySpecific FeaturesPrice
Salomon SpeedCross 320.77 oz9 mmTraditionalStable, good for most terrainCheck price on Amazon
Saucony Peregrine 518.8 oz4 mmLow ProfileLight, versatile, wet terrainCheck price on Amazon
La Sportiva Bushido21.3 oz4 mmLow ProfileToe caps, made for any terrainCheck price on Amazon
Altra Lone Peak 219.8 oz0 mmMinimalistLight, good protection, cushionedCheck price on Amazon
Hoka One One Challenger ATR17.4 oz29 mmMaximalistStabile, any terrain, cushionedCheck price on Amazon
Asics Gel-Kahana 721 oz10 mmTraditionalLow price, good protection, toe capCheck price on Amazon
Hoka Stinson ATR20.1 oz6 mmMaximalistLight, breathes wellCheck price on Amazon
Brooks Cascadia 1021.7 oz10 mmTraditionalWide toe box, durableCheck price on Amazon
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 27.1 oz4 mmLow ProfileSecure, comfortable, good gripCheck price on Amazon
Saucony Kinvara TR27.8 oz4 mmMinimalFlexible, light weightCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

To be sure you choose a pair of shoes that are a perfect fit for your needs, you need to know which features to keep an eye on before making the actual purchase. Here are the most important features:

Comfort

This is the most important feature for any type of footwear. You want your new trail running shoes to be comfortable so that you don’t experience pain or discomfort while you are running. Furthermore, having a pair of really comfortable running shoes, will allow you to cover longer distances.

Macro of woman legs in sport shoes, running over the wild terrain, under the cloudy sky.

Find something that has the type of lacing system you like, with enough padding in the insole and some great tread. Doing so will mean that your feet are happy and you can stay on the trail longer.

Material

When it comes to the type of fabric your new shoes are made of, you want something that’s going to be waterproof as much as possible because you could be running into the wet ground or even streams and puddles.

Barefoot-women-trail-running-shoes on the ground

Also, having water in your shoes is bad because it’s going to cause blisters. Furthermore, the material should also be breathable because if your feet don’t have enough air circulation, they will get pretty hot, fast, and that is one reason for blisters to pop out. Finally, the material needs to be strong enough, so that the rocks and sticks can’t scratch your shoes.

Outsoles

This is the part of your shoe that hits the ground when you’re running or walking. Outsoles provide traction as you go over different surfaces. For example, when you run on slippery ground or even ice, high-quality outsoles will make sure that you don’t slip and fall or get injured.

Image showing the outsole of the Trail Running Shoes for Women

This is especially important if you’re moving quickly and you don’t have time to watch your step on slippery surfaces. You want shoes with outsoles that will allow you to trust them to do all the step watching for you.

Lugs

This is actually the main difference between the tennis shoes and trail running shoes. The latter provide different, more complex lugs that offer you a much higher terrain versatility.

Image showing a woman-wearing-running-shoes

Lugs are the same thing as those patterns on car tires. The larger they are, the easier you can run across different surfaces and get the same traction as if you were walking on level ground. Again, just like with tires, for better traction, the lugs need to be deeper.

Types of Running Shoes

Not all trail running shoes are of the same type. Meaning, you can’t use one type for every occasion. You should keep the following types in mind when making the final choice:

Barefoot

This first category of footwear has a unique design which stands apart from any type of conventional shoes, mainly because they are designed to mimic the lack of footwear, offering little to no stability and comfort. These shoes are said to feel more like a pair of very protective socks.

A woman running in trail shoes on a sunny day

On the other hand, those who are interested in these kinds of shoes can benefit from them by training the muscle in their feet for overall stability and giving you a more “natural” run. These must be one of the most interesting types of shoes out there, but they are also one of the hardest to come by.

Low Profile

These ones have the lowest heel-toe drop shoes, usually within the range of 0 to 6 mm. They offer moderate protection, but most of the times with very high stability.

Traditional

The most popular type of trail running shoes is the one that most people choose. These are your Jack-of-all-trades types of shoes. Offering a moderate protection with a drop of 8 mm or higher, a comfortable fit that comes from the layer of cushion added to the heels, and good stability overall.

Nike-Air-Max-1-Ultra-Moire-Black-Grey

Being comfortable and suitable for most of our running needs, it’s no wonder that these shoes are the preferred choice for athletes and are the go-to solution for many hiking enthusiasts.

Maximalist

Have you ever wondered how it would be to run on clouds? This is how you feel with these shoes on! With a drop of 30 mm or more, comfort is at a maximum with these ones. With so much foam between your feet and the ground you know they are very protective, not only for the sole of your foot; they offer protection to your ankles as well. Their best feature is that with all that comfort, you can run for much longer distances compared to the other types.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Keep in mind that this list is designed considering our expertise in the area, but some of you may not find their favorite producers here. If this happens, please let us know in the comments. Also, it is crucial to know that the following products are not ranked by a numeric countdown, they are definitely different, but the first is just as appreciated as the last.

Salomon SpeedCross 3 Trail Running Shoes Salomon SpeedCross 3 Trail Running Shoes

Price: Approx. $130

Category: Traditional

Weight: 20.77 oz

Specific features: Made of textile and mesh, EVA foam, stable

Best use: Technical and/or sloppy trails

Description: The Salomon Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoes are an amazing pair of shoes built to withstand almost any type of terrain (except pavement) and especially sloppy, steep, wet and technical terrain. Protection wise, the outsole provides a good balance between stability and rigidity for a well-protected foot over any distance.

A very hard rubber toe cap will prevent stubbed toes and the midsole, which has been injected with EVA foam, can withstand outside impacts on your mid-foot and heel areas with ease. Not to mention that thanks to the textile and mesh of the shoe, debris won’t be a problem.

Wet rocks, sloppy snow, and even slopes of mud, are no match for the rubber non-marking contra-grip these shoes provide. As an added bonus, the widely spaced and deep lugs shed mud like nothing else. With a 9 mm drop, stability is very high on less even surfaces. With that and the help of great traction and precise fit, you will feel low on the ground, despite the fact you are actually being higher.

Are they comfortable? Despite fitting a narrow foot best, they actually are! Thanks to some extra EVA foam in the midsole, and a one-pull quick lace system that makes these shoes feel nice just to put on. And, with a zero days break-in period, they feel more comfortable the more you wear them.

The disadvantage of these shoes is that they are less breathable than some of the other products, which means cold climates are perfect for crossing, but not so much on warm or hot ones. And if they are not properly cleaned, the one-pull quick lace system can get gummed up.

PROS:

  • Great tracking
  • Good protection
  • Quick lace system

CONS:

  • Do not breathe well
  • For narrower feet

Related: While hiking the trail, you will need supportive clothing. The Under Armour Women’s Armour Mid Sports Bra is a supportive sports bra that comes in many colors for a great price.

Check the price on Amazon

Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running Shoe Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $100

Category: Low profile

Weight: 18.80 oz

Specific features: Synthetic, rubber sole, includes rock protection

Best use: Technical trails, pavement, mellow single track, and everything in between

Description: The Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running Shoe is versatile, lightweight, great for sloppy terrain, and even good as a crossover shoe that does pretty well on pavements (believe it or not).

They promote a flexible upper to keep your feet in place, a rigid outer and midsole along with the integrated nylon mesh, and a sturdy rubber toe cap. Beware that the outsole can be slippery on wet rocks.

A set of deep, multi-directional lugs with a complex pattern makes this pair perform extremely well up/down steep, on slippery slopes, on mud, and snow. The only issue is that the rubber can get very cold, very fast, so they are a bit more pleasant to wear in warmer weather.

If you combine their low profile design with the rigid outsole, the lightweight rock plate and the 4 mm drop, you get a pair of shoes that fall low to the ground making them very stable. The flat lacing system adds to the stability, but unfortunately it also takes away some of the flexibility.

Due to their low profile design, the lack of cushion makes them comfortable to wear on either short or long distances. The plus side is that thanks to the mesh, these shoes are incredibly breathable. Also, they hold very little water, and drying them takes no time at all. However, small particles such as mud and sand tend to seep in through the mesh on longer runs so you could get back home with heavier shoes.

PROS:

  • Breathes well
  • Rock plate system
  • Wide toe box

CONS:

  • Not very flexible
  • Slippery on wet rocks
  • Dirt gets in the mesh

Related: If you want to stay hydrated or in a hiking race, you can use the UltraAspire Alpha 2.0 Race Vest. You have full range of motion and it includes a 2 liter bladder inside.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Bushido Trail Running Shoes La Sportiva Bushido Trail Running Shoes

Price: Approx. $100

Category: Low profile

Weight: 21.3 oz

Specific features: Synthetic and fabric, high performance, AirMesh uppers

Best use: Any terrain

Description: The La Sportiva Bushido Trail Running Shoes are rigged with a very rigid outsole and a midsole rock plate that not even sharp rocks can tear. Even more, they are equipped with one of the hardest toe caps to keep you well-protected. And no dirt, sand or mud can get passed through that mesh! These are truly a pair of shoes made for any terrain!

The traction on these is also great. Boasting deep, multi-directional lugs made of an extremely sticky rubber, the shoes are great for rough surfaces. They didn’t perform as well in heavy mud compared to other surfaces and didn’t shed mud as well as some of our other entries, but they are still great nonetheless.

You can forget about turning ankles with these shoes! They boast a versatile lacing and a thermoplastic urethane frame with light, tight uppers.

Also, the 6 mm drop, gives the Bushido lots of stability. While being very breathable and a quick dryer, this pair also has a fabulous fit, but it is best suited for narrow feet. Because of their rigidity they feel less comfortable than some of the other shoes on this list.

PROS:

  • Stabile
  • Light
  • Quick dry

CONS:

  • Narrow
  • Somewhat pricey

Related: While on the trail you will want to protect your head from the sun. The TrailHeads Women’s Race Day Running Cap comes in 4 colors and is high performance for under $20.

Check the price on Amazon

Altra Lone Peak 2 Trail Running Shoe Altra Women’s Lone Peak 2 Trail-Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $40

Category: Minimalist

Weight: 19.8 oz

Specific features: Rubber sole, cushioned, breathes well, nice toe box

Best use: Any terrain except pavement

Description: For a minimalist, Altra Women’s Lone Peak 2 Trail-Running Shoe are really comfortable. The sturdy toe cap and a moderate cushioning give you good protection overall and the lightweight synthetic upper does a good job keeping small particles and sand out. Just beware of the small rubber flippers at the back of the shoe that tend to throw sand back.

The Lone Peak 2 has superb, but a bit limited tracking. Featuring “trail claw”, a hard and deep lug pattern that can grab any surface, they are limited in the sense that the lugs have a durability of about 80 miles.

When we discuss stability, the zero-drop technology and a wide toe box (for better toe spreading) make them one of the best on the market. Having a low profile design, a wide toe box and moderate cushioning is a big plus for comfort.

However, they still are minimalists, so some training may be required for you to feel comfortable in them. And not to mention that, because of their class, they are not made for heel strikers. The only thing left to warn you about is that rocks enter rather easily in these shoes.

PROS:

  • Stable
  • Cushioned
  • Wide toe box

CONS:

  • Not for heel strikers
  • Rocks get in easily
  • Lacks lug durability

Related: Be sure to have some good socks to wear on the trail. The injinji Trail Midweight Mini-Crew Xtralife Socks are made of polyester, nylon and lycra and have a moisture management system.

Check the price on Amazon

Hoka One One Challenger ATR Running Shoes Hoka One One Challenger ATR Running Shoes

Price: Approx. $130

Category: Maximalist

Weight: 17.4 oz

Specific features: Stable, comfortable, woven outer shell

Best use: Wet and dry terrain

Description: The Hoka One One Challenger Atr Running Shoes are some really big shoes, but they are a bit low to the ground (for their category). This means better stability. Also the comfort-meter is at an all-time high since the amount of protection is defined by the amount of cushion built into them, which is a lot. They also offer a nicely and tightly woven outer for your feet as well as a hard toe cap.

The large number of deep lugs means the Hoka One One can and will run smoothly on any type of terrain. They are good, but not the best, at gripping and seem to have traction perfect for sandy, muddy, rocky, and steep surfaces. The stability of these shoes is quite high considering their class and the fact that their stack height of 29 mm is combined with the responsive upper and great fit.

Comfort is one of their greatest assets, with ample amount of cushion, a good fit and wide toe box. They even breathe well, are quick to dry, and hold very little water. The bad side is that they seem to fit the narrow foot best and they degrade pretty fast. You can actually see some wear and tear after just 20 miles.

PROS:

  • Stable
  • Won’t hold water
  • Light and comfortable

CONS:

  • Erode quickly
  • Made for narrower feet

Related: If you need more cushion, the Superfeet Green Heritage Insoles will help, especially for high arches. Comfortable and affordable, your feet will stay happy.

Check the price on Amazon

Asics GEL-Kahana 7 Trail Running Shoes Asics GEL-Kahana 7 Trail Running Shoes

Price: Approx. $85

Category: Traditional

Weight: 21.0 oz

Specific features: Comfortable, cushioned, hard toe cap

Best use: Hiking, trail running

Description: Asics GEL-Kahana 7 Trail Running Shoes are almost a bargain! Having a low price and serving well in almost all categories, from good protection, to a nice stability, the GEL-Kahana 7 will take you from the roads and up to the hills feeling like a winner.

As mentioned earlier, these shoes provide good protection for your feet, thanks to a hard toe cap and a rigid and cushioned midsole. So you don’t need to worry about sharp rocks or stubbed toes. They also implement the Rearfoot GEL cushioning system for added protection in favor of the heel strikers, and the mesh keeps out the sand and dust from your shoes very well.

Traction-wise, they behave well against most surfaces like mud, roots, and rocks, keeping a firm grip. However, when they become wet, the sole tends to be a bit slippery, especially on snow. Still, they make for a great crossover option.

Boasting a wide toe box, 10 mm drop, foam fitting uppers, a rigid and yet flexible forefoot, these shoes are extremely stable. The ASICS DuoMax support system they feature also adds to stability.

The downside is represented by the round laces which are a bit annoying, as they seem to come undone after longer runs. Also they will keep you warm in cold temperatures, but are not very breathable, so you may reconsider them for those hotter days. And the toe box seems a bit shallow, which can cause discomfort.

PROS:

  • Sturdy
  • Great tread
  • Wide toe box

CONS:

  • Slippery on wet surfaces
  • Doesn’t breathe well
  • Toe box is shallow

Related: Be sure your laces are secure by using Lock Laces. These help you not have to tie your shoes and come in many colors to match your running shoes. Easy to use, you will love this!

Check the price on Amazon

Hoka Stinson ATR Running Trail Shoes Hoka Stinson ATR Running Trail Shoes

Price: Approx. $130

Category: Maximalist

Weight: 20.1 oz

Specific features: Foot protection, arch support, deep foot frame

Best use: Terrain where extra tread is needed, various trail types

Description: The Hoka Stinson ATR Running Trail Shoes are built for nearly all types of terrain, including roads and pavements, this lightweight and breathable pair will make your journeys a walk in the park. Still, the price tag is a bit inflated so you may want to wait for sales season.

Thanks to the oversized CMEVA midsole, the rigid sole and the hard toe cap, your feet are well protected. In addition to that, the upper in combination with the quick lace design gives even more protection and stability. The bad news is that some of the smaller sand particles will get in your shoe through the breathable mesh.

For traction, you have hi-abrasion-resistant lightweight rubber that will grid over almost all surfaces. The combination of the lugs, tread, and depth of the midsole will keep you in place and stable, and as a bonus, the sole is moldable to fill in the cracks and absorb the trail around you.

They only lose stability when they get wet and become slippery. Now, let’s face it, with a stack height of 30 mm, loss of stability is expected, even though the three-layered weld support frame and rigid uppers do provide a precise fit. So these are some of the least stable pairs on the list.

Comfort-wise, they receive a 10. There is lots of cushioning to alleviate the impact and are very breathable, so much so that you can almost see through the mesh. A minus could be that they seem to fit a narrow foot best.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Breathes well
  • Quick lace system

CONS:

  • Dirt gets inside
  • Not for wet surfaces
  • Fit narrow feet best

Related: Stay comfortable on the trail with the Coofandy Hooding Raincoat. It offers protection from wet weather for a nice price, and comes in many colors.

Check the price on Amazon

Brooks Cascadia 10 Running Shoe Brooks Cascadia 10 Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $70

Category: Traditional

Weight: 21.7 oz

Specific features: Comfortable, durable, made of mesh and synthetic fabric

Best use: Various trail types, good and bad weather

Description: The Brooks Cascadia 10 Running Shoes are one of those Jack-of-all-trades shoes that are versatile and perform well at any distance. Their protection factor comes from the sturdy and durable forefoot, rigid rock plate sole, and the BioMoGo/DNA blend in the mid-foot area.

The traction comes from their medium-hard rubber outsole with multi-directional lugs, which will make mud puddles, wet snow, and pretty much any surface easy to grab and traverse. A plus on stability coming from a combination of four integrated stability posts, located on the outside of the mid-foot and heel along with the BioMoGo/DNA blend midsole, and a 10 mm heel-to-toe drop.

The Brooks offer ample comfort, with lots of cushioning, and a wide toe box for any kind of distance. However, they do take a while to break-in, and seem to be pretty heavy for the first few times. Overall, this is a great shoe for the trial that will fit well and offer a long life.

PROS:

  • Wider toe box
  • Offers protection
  • Durable

CONS:

  • Get heavy if wet
  • Takes time to break them in

Related: Keep the music flowing with some headphones while you run. The Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones connect wirelessly and are adjustable and easy to use.

Check the price on Amazon

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 2 Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 2

Price: Approx. $85

Category: Low profile

Weight: 7.1 oz

Specific features: Sharp lugs, rubber sole, mesh fabric

Best use: Trails, places where traction is needed

Description: Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 2 are great shoes for crossover and all kinds of terrain, very secure with great fit, and with a great upper design meant to be very comfortable. However, they are not that great on the grip.

Offering single density midsole, a regrind rubber on the outside rubber piece, and welded overlays for the toe box, these shoes keep your feet safe, although the toe box is a bit thin. Tracking-wise the sticky sole does a good job on almost any surface, but the outer sole is lacking durability and wear can be seen after only 10 miles.

Stability comes mostly from the sharp, rigid, midsole which is enough to make you feel secure and safe. Also, the soft heel collar and firm foam cushion make them comfortable for their class, but not by a lot. Users like these shoes because they are comfortable, light in weight, and affordable.

PROS:

  • Durable
  • Protective
  • Fit well overall

CONS:

  • Loses traction over time
  • Toe box is thin

Related: Wearing comfortable gear is important while running. The Sugar Pocket Pants are comfortable, under $20, and come in various colors to fit your mood.

Check the price on Amazon

Saucony Kinvara TR2 Saucony Kinvara TR2

Price: Approx. $100

Category: Minimalist

Weight: 7.8 oz

Specific features: Synthetic fabric, HydraMAX collar, flexible

Best use: Any terrain except pavement

Description: The Flex-firm upper and the low profile design, give the Saucony Kinvara TR2 good protection and the Power Grid system in the midsole will absorb a lot of the impact.

The forefoot protection wears down quite easily though. They are very stable as the thin yet firm midsole and the Flex-firm upper do a great job in making you fell down on the ground and in control.

The cushioning is just enough so that you can run for long distances and not sacrifice stability and flexibility. Also the ComfortLite Sock Liner for the heels adds for a more comfortable ride.

We like these shoes because they are not only comfortable, but they also have a good rubber sole and a durable outer shell that keeps water out of the shoe. You can choose your color selection from red, gray and white to gray, blue and citron and black, blue and pink.

PROS:

  • Light
  • Flexible
  • Comfortable insole

CONS:

  • Not durable in the forefoot
  • Somewhat pricier than others

Related: Having a fitness tracker can keep your goals in sight on the trail. The Garmin VivoFit Band can be worn all the time, has a long battery life and keeps you in line for your fitness goals.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

And so we’ve reached the end of our list. We hope you now have a better understanding of what these shoes are about and maybe even chose your pair, so that you may perform your favorite activity with the right gear. The shoes we’ve discussed are unique in their own way and none are better than the other, and so we believe all of them deserve a minute of your attention.

Image showing a woman running on the moutains

We sure hope that you have found this guide helpful and are confident enough to pick out a great new pair of trail running shoes for yourself that you can enjoy for many hikes in the future! Now that you are armed with information, you are ready to make the purchase!

Now it’s time to hand over the mike and ask: what do you think? Are there any products that you think deserve a spot on this list? Let us know in the comments, and happy shopping!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Edward Gregory

    Although I am currently using Salomon for trailing, my girlfriend got herself a Merrell Pace Glove 3 (J35636). She wears these shoes for just about everything, from working retail all day to hiking rim to river and back at home (she can wear these shoes all day long). They are lightweight and comfortable too. She loves them so much.

  • Mark Foster

    The Salomon Speedcross 3 is quite similar to what she is wearing now and it’s a good brand, too. The Speedcross would be a great gift for her, don’t you think?

  • Kristina Nunez

    When I was just starting off (few runs a week, few miles), most “neutral” shoes worked great for me – the Nike Pegasus or LunarGlide (not neutral, but it’s a very low stability shoe and a decent starting point for someone who doesn’t know how much they are going to run). Every brand has a basic “neutral” shoe, but those are just two I know of. But, when I started to run more often (also longer distances), I went to a running store. They checked out my feet and my stride, and recommended me GEL-Kahana 7. Sooo happy I bought them 🙂

  • Mark Foster

    The Gel-Kahana 7 is very affordable and they looked great, too. It also works in most terrain and cushions your feet for easier stride. Although, you have to watch out since it gets pretty slippery when the ground is wet – but so do most shoes, I know.

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