Top Fast trail shoes

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When you head out to find the freedom of the trails, your shoes need to soak up the terrain, and of course they need to grip, but if you plan on upping your game you don’t want them to weigh you down. Today we are looking at fast trail shoes, designed to help you glide over the toughest terrain.

These are the shoes you will want to pull out on your fast days, whether your aim is to PB a favourite route, or podium at the UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc) we have you covered.

Let’s start by answering a few common questions and covering the basics before we look at some individual shoes.

 

What is a trail shoe?

Shoes designed to cover off road ground, you can normally spot them easily by the more rugged appearance than on road shoes. On the sole they will have chunkier grip, often formed into “lugs”, small blunt spikes that give excellent grip across a wide range of terrain types. On the upper, increased protection is often evident in overlays and rubber bumpers offering improved durability, some foot protection, and of course, sadly, extra weight.

Top Fast trail shoes
Top Fast trail shoes
Top Fast trail shoes

What makes a trail shoe, a fast trail shoe?

There are two main ways to make a shoe improve your speed across uneven ground, assuming you already have all the traction you need.

The traditional way is to lose weight. Sometimes this can mean losing protection, but it is also possible to use technology like no-sew overlays and lighter materials to keep the weight to a minimum.

With the advent of the modern super foams, a more recent way to give the sensation of speed is by using responsive foams in the midsole. Often incredibly lightweight, they will absorb the rigours of the trail, and help to propel you forward onto your next step with a bounce.

There are many other ways to gain speed, from carbon plates to rocker constructions, each brand will have their own concepts and ideas, all aimed at giving you the advantage, and all highlighted in the list below.

 

Do I need a race day shoe?

Of course, you don’t NEED a race day shoe, Eliud Kipchoge would still be able to outrun me if he was wearing wellies and I had my pick of the shoes below…. but he did only break the 2hour marathon mark when he was given shoes specifically aimed at the target.

Fast trail shoes aren’t just for race day, but they are designed to help you find your speediest performance. They can do that through the efficiency gains found in the latest materials and designs, or from the confidence you gain when you lace up your fastest feeling shoes, and the gains you can make before you even start.

 

Can you wear trail runners on the road?

Some shoes are designed as road-to-trail shoes so you can do both in one run. However, with most trail shoes you will experience an increase in wear if you use the outsole on concrete a lot. You should also expect to have slightly less grip, as the lugs that grip so well to wet mud offer less grip on flat concrete. The longer the lugs, the less effective your shoe will be on road.

Our Top Picks

Top Fast trail shoes

Nike React Pegasus Trail 4

It seemed an obvious move to take Nikes bestselling running shoe and place a trail specific outsole on it, but Nike went further, redesigning the shoe to give the famous Pegasus ride, but off road. The traction is designed using runners’ data to provide a generative traction pattern.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Altra Mont Blanc

Featuring Altra’s usual combination of gender specific fit, wide forefoot for a relaxed fit and improved power on toe off, and the zero drop for a more natural alignment, the Mont Blanc looks to conquer beyond the Alps. Vibram megagrip and a high stack of EGOMAX cushioning gives you the tools to excel.

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Top Fast trail shoes

adidas Terrex Speed Pro

The fastest shoe in adidas’s highly respected Terrex range, Ultralightweight they feature Lightstrike cushioning and a full-length protection plate so that you can put the hammer down with no worries underfoot. Continental rubber on the outsole provides traction in the wet and dry alike.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Nike ZoomX Zegama

Using a huge depth of Nikes lightest and most responsive super foam ZoomX, the Zegama offers speed and cushioning, making it perfect for racing over longer distances, or even up the Basque Mountain side like the race its named after. A diverse lug pattern offers grip over a variety of technical terrain.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Hoka Challenger ATR 6

Bringing the usual super smooth Hoka transition to quick trail runs, the ATR 6 has a multi lugged outsole, closer tighter on the heel to help with that smooth ride, and wider at the forefoot for improved grip on the trail and in the wet. CMEVA foam cushions and provides stable footing.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Inov8 Parkclaw™ 260 Knit

Start your run at your front door, with a door to trail outsole that is designed to give excellent traction off road and on. Super comfy Knit fabric lets your feet breathe while underfoot the Boomerang footbed gives 40% extra rebound, complementing the Powerflow+ midsole.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Mizuno Wave Rider TT

Mizuno’s wave technology offers a springy feel with a smooth ride and a touch of extra stability to your off-road adventure. A heel wedge of their most responsive Enerzy foam also helps to propel you forward. The stylish AirMesh upper is highly breathable to help keep your feet from overheating.

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Top Fast trail shoes

The North Face Vectiv Infinite

Using a 3D dual density plate to offer stability, energy return and a smooth ride, the Vectiv Infinite is designed to take you on long distances at speed. The lightweight Matryx upper features Kevlar yarns for an incredibly rugged build that offers protection and support.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Puma Voyage Nitro GTX

Stacked full of technology, from the Gore-Tex upper lining to the PUMAGRIP high traction outsole rubber and the Nitrogen infused midsole foam in the middle, the Voyage Nitro GTX lets you head out in any weather and over any terrain. An OPTIFIT foot wrap offers a secure fit and stops debris from entering the shoe.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Saucony Peregrine 12

Offering up the soaring speed that the name would suggest, the Peregrine combines PWRRUN and PWRRUN+ underfoot for a soft feel that propels you onwards. Pliable overlays on the upper offer protection with minimal additional weight. 5mm lugs on the PWRTRAC outsole give excellent traction.

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Top Fast trail shoes

On Cloudventure

Taking On’s signature “Cloud Pod” technology to the trails, the Cloudventure uses Zero-Gravity Foam with a Speedboard fine tuned to provide an explosive ride off road. Missiongrip rubber in the outsole uses multiple grip patterns and zig zag channels for uphill and downhill traction.

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Top Fast trail shoes

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V7

Made much lighter in the recent iteration and featuring a Vibram Megagrip outsole with 4.5mm lugs for superior traction, the Hierro 7 has stepped up its game. It also features Fresh Foam X in the midsole for a massively cushioned, and smooth ride.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Merrell Moab Flight

Providing you with loads of comfort to take on mile after mile, the Moab Flight offers a padded tongue and plenty of underfoot cushioning. The Vibram Ecostep rubber outsole is made using 30% recycled rubber while the 3mm lugs offer confidence in your footing across any terrain.

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Top Fast trail shoes

Puma Women’s Voyage Nitro

With the same construction as the Voyage Nitro GTX mentioned earlier, but minus the Gore-Tex lining, the Nitro is slightly lighter, and slightly more breathable because of the Gore-Tex omission.

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Top Fast trail shoes

ASICS Women's Gel Trabuco 10 G-TX

The only out and out stability shoe on this list, a Duomax medial post combines with a 3D foot stabilising platform to offer extra support across uneven terrain. It also combines Flytefoam and Gel technologies to offer exceptional impact resistance and cushioning. The G-TX version uses a Gore-Tex upper lining to help keep your feet dry.

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Top Fast trail shoes

adidas Women’s Terrex Agravic Flow GTX

Pro-Moderator support protects your underfoot from rocks, while also adding improved stability to your run. Continental rubber grip outsole and Lightstrike lightweight cushioning give confidence underfoot, while the engineered mesh upper offers improved breathability up top.

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Ray Barlow

Having suffered from Chronic Fatigue for over a decade, I am a recent convert to the joys of running. Although every run steals a lot of energy, the mental health and fitness benefits more than make up for it. My runs are mainly across the back of the nearby beaches, dodging between the tourists. When not geeking out over the latest running tech, you can find me trying new gins, making gins, or boring anyone within earshot about gin.
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Top Fast trail shoes

Adventure Awaits

Shop our top picks of fast trail running shoes now!

Shop Men's Shop Women's