SHOES & BOOTS

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

Women Trail running shoes
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Let’s talk trail running and the best trail running shoes for women. First, trail running , or as it’s called in the UK and sometimes in Ireland, “mountain” or “fell” running , is a widely known and practiced sport among athletes. The sport basically consists of hiking and running on trails, on a variety of rough terrains depending on the environment you choose.

But how do you trail run? With the right shoes of course; and this is why we mentioned them in the beginning. The mentioned sport has gained a lot of popularity in the recent years. In response to that, a lot of research has been put into making special shoes that will perform on different kinds of terrains and climates, according to different running styles.

Important! You should be careful what kind of shoes you buy! There are models that are only good for certain terrains and perform poorly on others. Of course, there are the “Jack-of-all-trades” styles of shoes which you can take almost anywhere but don’t excel in neither of situations. Another good thing to keep in mind is that most trail running shoes do not offer good performance on paved roads or sidewalks.

Trail running shoes

Actually, experts say that in these scenarios, this type of footwear can do more harm than good leaving you with blisters and sore feet after a long walk in the city. Because they are not made for a leisurely stroll, on pavement, these shoes may even degrade faster, making your purchase worthless.

How To Make The Difference: Types Of Trail Running Shoes

Trail running shoes typically fall into four main categories:

  • Barefoot,
  • Low Profile,
  • Traditional,
  • Maximalist.

You may encounter hybrids which don’t fit in either of these classifications, but these are the standard categories that the industry takes into account. Now, a brief explanation regarding these categories so you know what to look for.

Barefoot (minimalist)

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.

Barefoot women trail running shoes

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 6mm.

Low Profile trail running shoes

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 8mm or higher, a comfortable fit that comes from the layer of cushion added to the heels, and good stability overall.

Woman wearing running shoes

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 30mm 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.

Maximalist trail running shoes

Now that we know the type, let’s see the best models out there. Today we’ll only discuss women shoes, but stay tuned for the men shoes reviews as well.

Top 10 Trail Running Shoes for Women

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 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 Women’s Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoe

Salomon Women’s Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoe

Category: Traditional.

Heel-to-toe drop: 9mm

Weight:  20.77 ounces

Price: Between $70.06 and $134.95

Best use: technical and/or sloppy trails

Description: The Speedcross 3 is 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 heels 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 9mm 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 you actually being higher.

Are they comfortable? Despite fitting a narrow foot best, you bet! 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, precise fit, good protection, sheds mud nicely, one-pull quick lance system.
  • Cons: Quick lance system requires proper cleaning, less breathable and fits a narrow foot best.

Saucony Women’s Peregrine 5 Trail Running Shoe

Saucony Women's Peregrine 5 Trail Running Shoe

Category: Low Profile.

Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm

Weight:  18.80 ounces

Price: Between $41.99 and $156.49

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

Description: The Saucony Peregrine 5 are 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 robber toecap. 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 that the rubber can get very cold fast, and 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 rockplate and the 4mm 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: Lightweight, rockplate system with a wide toe box and incredibly breathable.
  • Cons: Particles go through mesh, lack of flexibility and can be slippery on wet rocks.

La Sportiva Women’s Bushido Trail Running Shoe

La Sportiva Women's Bushido Trail Running Shoe

Category: Low Profile.

Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm

Weight:  21.3 ounces

Price: Between $79.95 and $130.00

Best use: Any terrain

Description: La Sportiva Women’s Bushido Trail Running Shoe are rigged with a very rigid outsole and a midsole rockplate 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 robber, 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 6mm 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: Awesome stability and tracking, low profile, lightweight and a quick dryer.
  • Cons: Best for narrow feet and a bit more expensive.

Altra Women’s Lone Peak 2 Trail-Running Shoe

Altra Women's Lone Peak 2 Trail-Running Shoe

Category: Minimalist.

Heel-to-toe drop: Zero

Weight:  19.8 ounces

Price: Between $54.99 and $131.45

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: Has the best stability and sensibility, a zero drop technology on a low profile design and a wide toe box.
  • Cons: Not suited for heel strikers, poor lug durability and rocks enter easily.

Hoka One One Women’s Challenger Atr Running Shoe

Hoka One One Women's Challenger Atr Running Shoe

Category: Maximalist.

Heel-to-toe drop: 29mm

Weight:  17.4 ounces

Price: $133.65

Best use: Any terrain

Description: Hoka One One Women’s Challenger Atr Running Shoe 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 in 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 29mm 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: Quite stable for a maximalist, hold little water, lightweight and very comfortable.
  • Cons: Best for a narrow foot and degrade fast.

ASICS Women’s GEL-Kahana 7 Trail Running Shoe

ASICS Women's GEL-Kahana 7 Trail Running Shoe

Category: Traditional.

Heel-to-toe drop: 10mm

Weight:  21.0 ounces

Price: Between $44.95 and $87.94

Best use:  Any terrain

Description: ASICS Women’s GEL-Kahana 7 Trail Running Shoe 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, 10mm 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 construction, very good traction, wide toe box and great price.
  • Cons: Slippery when wet, less breathable and shallow toe box.

Hoka Women’s Stinson ATR Running Trail Shoe

Hoka Women's Stinson ATR Running Trail Shoe

Category: Maximalist.

Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm

Weight:  20.1 ounces

Price: Between $129.99 and $175.96

Best use: Any terrain

Description: Hoka Women’s 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 30mm, 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: Extremely comfortable, lightweight, breathable and a quick fit-lacing system.
  • Cons: Particles seep in, unstable when wet and are best for narrow feet.

Brooks Women’s Cascadia 10 Running Shoe

Brooks Women’s Cascadia 10 Running Shoe

Category: Traditional.

Heel-to-toe drop: 10mm

Weight:  21.7 ounces

Price: Between $66.93 and $204.87

Best use: Any terrain

Description: Brooks Women’s Cascadia 10 Running Shoe 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 rockplate 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 10mm 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.

  • Pros: Wide toe box, great protection, versatile and durable.
  • Cons: Takes a while to break-in and are heavy when wet.

Women’s Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 2

Women's Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 2

Category: Low Profile.

Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm

Weight:  7.1 ounces

Price: Between $119.99 and $124.99

Best use: Any terrain

Description: Women’s 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.

  • Pros: Versatile, great fit and protective.
  • Cons: Thin toe box and loses traction after a short time.

Women’s Saucony Kinvara TR2

Women's Saucony Kinvara TR2

Category: Minimal

Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm

Weight:  7.8 ounces

Price: Between $89.95 and $99.99

Best use: Any terrain except pavement

Description: The Flex-firm upper and the low profile design give Women’s 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.

  • Pros: Lightweight, feeling fast and very flexible.
  • Cons: Not so durable forefoot protection.

Conclusion

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.

Trail Running Races for Women

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 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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