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10 Best Trail Runners and Hiking Shoes of 2024

10 Best Trail Runners and Hiking Shoes

Trail runners and hiking shoes have become increasingly popular with hikers and backpackers because they’re lighter weight than hiking boots and dry faster. The biggest difference between trail runners and hiking shoes is that (low) hiking shoes, which tend to be heavier and more durable, can only be used for walking while trail runners can be used for walking and running. Given their popularity among hikers, it makes sense to list them together so you can weigh their pros and cons.

Preferences vary widely, however, and some hikers like waterproof footwear, ones with thick cushioning, more durable hiking shoes, or ultralight mesh trail runners that dry rapidly when they get wet. Regardless of your preferences, it’s important to choose footwear that fits well and is appropriate for the conditions you plan to hike in, especially in terms of temperature, terrain difficulty, and the weight of the loads you expect to carry.

Men's ModelTypeWomen's Model
Hoka Speedgoat 5Trail RunnerHoka Speedgoat 5
Altra Lone Peak 8Trail RunnerAltra Lone Peak 8
Danner Trail 2650 GTXHiking ShoeDanner Trail 2650 GTX
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor IITrail RunnerLa Sportiva Ultra Raptor II
Merrill Moab 3Hiking ShoeMerrill Moab 3
La Sportiva WildcatTrail RunnerLa Sportiva Wildcat
Salomon Speedcross 6Trail RunnerSalomon Speedcross 6
Brooks Cascadia 17Trail RunnerBrooks Cascadia 17
KEEN Targhee WP IIIHiking ShoeKEEN Targhee WP III
Oboz Firebrand II Low WPHiking ShoeOboz Firebrand II Low WP

Here are the 10 best hiking shoes and trail runners that we recommend.

1. Hoka Speedgoat 5 Trail Runner

Hoka One One Speedgoat 5

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Maximum
  • Drop: 4 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Average
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is a well-cushioned, mesh trail running shoe that provides sure-footed traction in rough terrain. Breathable uppers and a wide toe box provide comfort on long hikes, while the shoe’s excellent midfoot support provides stability and a secure feel. A Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole provides grip in wet and dry conditions while the 4 mm drop allows you to enjoy the benefits of a lower drop shoe without a long adaption period. The Speedgoat also has an extended heel geometry and enhanced front rocker allowing for smoother heel-to-toe transitions and easier push-off. Whether you’re running or hiking this helps preserve your pace. However, the Speedgoat 5 does have a pronounced stack height that reduces trail feel in situations like rock scrambling where a lower-height shoe might provide more sensitivity. Read the SectionHiker Speedgoat 5 Review. 

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2. Altra Lone Peak 8 Trail Runners

Altra Lone Peak 8

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 0 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Yes
  • Durability: Average
The Altra Lone Peak 8 is the most popular trail running shoe used by hikers, backpackers, and thru-hikers by a wide margin. Noted for its roomy toe box, splayed forefoot, and integrated tongue, the moderately cushioned Lone Peak has mesh uppers for enhanced breathability and drainage. This zero-drop shoe has a toothy lugged sole that provides good traction, with an integrated rock guard that offers enhanced forefoot protection. An innovative gaiter trap on the rear of the shoe holds your gaiters in place. Durability can be so-so if you hike in rocky terrain which abrades the shoe’s mesh outers, and sand may leak inside in desert terrain. Read our Lone Peak 8 Review. Another popular choice is the Altra Timp which is slightly narrower and more fitted than the Lone Peak.

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3. Danner Trail 2650 GTX Hiking Shoes

Danner Trail 2650

  • Type: Hiking Shoe
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 8 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Yes
  • Durability: Excellent
The Danner Trail 2650 GTX is a very stable lightweight leather hiking shoe that’s good for hiking and backpacking in moderately challenging and rugged terrain (non-waterproof and mesh versions are also available). It’s substantially more durable than a mesh trail runner but is still quite agile. Reinforced heel counters and an ultralight TPU shank provide lightweight support and protection while Vibram Megagrip outsoles provide exceptional traction on rocky or wet terrain. The toe box is large enough to let your toes splay out and wide sizes are also available. In addition to trail use, the Trail 2650 is stylish enough that you can wear it out or to work and no one will know you’re wearing your hiking shoes. But their biggest win in our minds is durability compared to most mesh trail runners. Read our Danner Trail 2650 GTX Review.

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4. La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Trail Runner

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 9 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Average
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II is an all-terrain mountain running shoe with a sticky rubber outsole geared towards rocky and unforgiving. Noted for their excellent traction, even on wet rock, they have a sturdy toe bumper and molded nylon shank that provides forefoot protection in rugged terrain. Mesh uppers are highly breathable and dry quickly when wet. Durability is good with reinforced plastic ribs that prevent the mesh from shredding. The Ultra Raptors have an athletic fit, narrow enough in the heel and mid-foot to provide a stable running or hiking platform. They do not have a gaiter trap on the heel, however, so be prepared to stick a piece of velcro on the back unless you wear gaiters with a strap that runs through the arch.  Read the SectionHiker La Sportiva Ultra II Raptor Review.

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5. Merrell Moab 3 Hiking Shoes

Merrell Moab 2 Low Vent Hiking Shoes

  • Type: Hiking Shoe
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 11 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Excellent
The Merrell Moab 3 is a combination mesh and leather trail shoe that features excellent breathability, durability, and the added protection of leather uppers. A reinforced toe cap provides great foot protection for rocky scrambles, while a rockered sole helps sustain forward momentum. The Vibram sole has large 5 mm lugs that provide added traction in sand and mud, while a hard nylon shank provides arch support and protection. The Moab 3 is a very stable shoe that resists rolling, with air cushioning in the heels, midsole, and tongue for enhanced shock absorption while still providing the shoes with an excellent level of “trail feel”, which is a little surprising to find in an otherwise burly trail shoe. Wide-width sizes and waterproof versions are also available. Read our Moab 3 review. 

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6. La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Runner

La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Runner

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 12 mm
  • Wide Sizes: No
  • Durability: Average
While the La Sportiva Wildcat is classified as a trail runner, it provides the support of a hiking shoe making it a good choice if you want a little bit of both. It has well-draining mesh uppers, a wide toe box, and a sticky rubber sole that provides excellent traction on dry or wet rock. The midsoles have nylon shanks and EVA lasting boards that provide the same kind of cushioning and rigidity you find on a hiking shoe, with extra stabilizers in the heel. With a 12 mm drop, the Wildcat doesn’t require the same acclimatization time as a zero or low drop trail runner, making it wearable out of the box. Read the SectionHiker Wildcat Shoe Review. 

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7. Salomon Speedcross 6 Trail Runner

Salomon Speedcross 6

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 11 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Excellent
The Salomon Speedcross 6 is a toothy trail runner designed for hiking and running in challenging terrain. Designed for mud, soft soil, and running in shoulder season conditions (think snow, slush, puddles), it has long 5 mm lugs that provide superb traction. That and a high stack height (32mm heel/22 mm forefoot) ensure plenty of underfoot protection. Tightly woven mesh panels with overlaps for abrasion resistance provide good drainage and prevent sand and grit from entering the shoe, but can limit ventilation in hot weather. The toe box width in this latest generation is wider and more comfortable than in previous models. The Speedcross 6 uses Salomon’s proprietary quicklace system which eliminates the need to tie your shoes but is replaceable if you prefer a more conventional lacing system.

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8. Brooks Cascadia 17 Trail Runner

Brooks Cascade Trail 16 Trail Runner

  • Type: Trail Runner
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 8 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Available
  • Durability: Very Good
The Brooks Cascadia 17 is an incredibly refined trail runner with features that trail runners and hikers will find valuable. Combining cushioning with protection, channels in the midsoles, and outsole construction let the shoes mold easily to the ground, improving a stable ride. A ballistic rock plate protects against pebbles and uneven terrain and the gusseted tongue keeps out sand and small debris. The shoes have a heel gaiter tab and a lace keeper so laces don’t untie when underway. Synthetic inlays on the front and along the side help protect the shoe’s exterior mesh from abrasion while drainage ports help evacuate water quickly. Deeply lugged are made with a sticky rubber that provides excellent grip on wet and dry surfaces. The Cascadia 17 is a great all-rounder that works any terrain, providing stable comfort and traction.

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9. KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Low Hiking Shoes

KEEN Targhee III WP Hiking Shoes

  • Type: Hiking Shoes
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 8-10 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Yes (Amazon)
  • Durability: Excellent
KEEN’s Targhee III Waterproof Low Hiking Shoes are bomber-durable hiking shoes made with soft and pliable nubuck leather with a KEEN.dry waterproof liner. They have a wide toe box so your feet can splay out and relax with 4mm multidirectional rubber lugs that offer a high-traction grip. Despite being leather, the shoes don’t require much if any break in time. They have an internal shank that provides support and protection against pebbles and sharp rocks, but the level of cushioning provided is just average and nothing exceptional. The fit of these shoes runs wide but wide sizes are also available on Amazon (sold by KEEN). 
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10. Oboz Firebrand II Low Hiking Shoes

Oboz Firebrand Hiking Shoes

  • Type: Hiking Shoe
  • Cushion: Medium
  • Drop: 15 mm
  • Wide Sizes: Yes
  • Durability: Excellent
The Oboz Firebrand II Low WP is a rugged waterproof hiking shoe with nubuck leather uppers and abrasion-resistant nylon mesh panels for breathability. A burly front toe kick and EVA midsole provide ample protection in front and from below, while nylon shanks offer torsional stability increasing surefootedness on varied terrain. The toe box is well protected by front and side impacts while the interior provides ample room for your toes to splay out. The burly sole provides excellent traction across a variety of surfaces (think 4-heel drive) although the sole is not as sticky on wet rock as a trail runner. Oboz, unlike other trail runners or hiking shoe manufacturers, includes a high-quality insole in all of its shoes and boots comparable to Superfeet’s insoles in terms of comfort, durability, and support. Their insoles are so good you can purchase them separately and use them in any footwear.

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How To Choose Hiking Shoes and Trail Runners

There’s a lot of variety available when it comes to hiking footwear and ad people have a wide range of personal preferences. This is why we highly recommend that you try lots of different options if you’re making a new selection, so you can discover what your preferences are. Here are some guidelines about things you should consider when choosing between different hiking boots, trail shoes, and trail runners. For example, some thru-hikers can get an entire hike out of a pair of hiking shoes but will go through three or more pairs of trail runners to travel the same distance. That can get kind of expensive, as you can imagine.

Hiking Shoes vs Trail Runners: What’s the Difference?

Hiking shoes are really just meant for walking, while trail runners can be used for walking or running. That’s probably the simplest definition. The truth is there is a lot of overlap between the categories. In general however, you’ll find that hiking shoes are heavier and more durable, while trail runners wear out much more quickly because they’re lighter weight and made with less durable materials.

Sweat can lead to blisters

The buildup of sweat inside of hiking footwear and your socks can lead to blisters. When your socks stick to your skin, they can cause friction, and a friction burn, which is how blisters form. Breathability is key to preventing sweat build-up, which is why so many hikers prefer mesh hiking footwear since it dries while you wear it.

Black toenails indicate a poor fit

If your toenails turn black when you hike, it’s because your toes do not have enough room in the front of your footwear. Size up or select footwear that has a larger toe box by design. Altra and KEEN shoes and boots have an exaggerated-size toe box, which is why they’re so popular with hikers and backpackers.

After-Market Insoles

One-third of hikers and backpackers buy after-market insoles, such as Superfeet, to replace the insoles that come with their hiking boots, mids, trail shoes, and trail runners. These provide more protection, more arch support, and cup your heel to help prevent the lateral movement that can cause plantar fasciitis. They also last longer than factory insoles.

Waterproof/breathable footwear dries slowly

Waterproof/breathable footwear tends to dry much more slowly than non-waterproof footwear. While waterproof hiking boots and shoes are good for hiking in cold weather, it’s often more desirable to have a well-vented mesh shoe that dries quickly than one that stays wet for days and can lead to blisters and other discomforts.

Ankle Rolling

Many hikers opt for boots/mids because think they’re necessary for carrying heavier-weight backpacks and provide more ankle support than low hiking shoes or trail runners. While that was probably true when all hiking boots were made with heavy leather, modern hiking boots and mids are much softer and less supportive and are really just one step up from being trail or running shoes. While they can provide more assurance, you can still twist an ankle when wearing one. On the flip side, many hikers and backpackers are able to carry heavy packs and walk on rugged mountainous terrain in trail shoes and trail runners. In other words, there’s no right answer and you should decide for yourself, rather than follow anyone’s gospel truth.

Traction

Boot and shoe manufacturers make a big deal about traction and while it is important, it’s very difficult to prove that different sole compositions, lug angles, lug depth, Vibram or non-Vibram soles, blah, blah, blah, etc. make that big of an impact on traction. When push comes to shove, the only hiking traction that really matters is when you’re scrambling on wet rock or walking along a cliff edge. Even then, good footwork is probably more important, so develop that rather than relying on your shoes.

Toe and Foot protection

Hiking and backpacking can be tough on the feet, particularly around the toes and under the arch. It doesn’t affect everyone, but it can lead to injuries that take a long time to heal. Built-up areas around the toes, sometimes called toe kicks, are good if you hike in rocky terrain. A shank is usually a hard strip of nylon or plastic that runs under the arch and helps stiffen a shoe or boot. Rock plates and stone guards in the forefoot of the shoe provide additional protection from sharp stones that can bruise your feet, particularly when trail running.

Gaiters

Hikers wear gaiters to block sticks, stones, and other debris from getting into their shoes while they hike. But some shoes are more gaiter compatible than others. For example, if your gaiters have a strap that loops under your shoe, you’re going to want to have footwear that has an arch, so the gaiter strap doesn’t get destroyed by rubbing on the ground. Gaiters designed for trail shoes or trail runners may require gluing a velcro strip to the back of your heel to hold the gaiter in place. If this is the case, make sure there is a flat surface on the back of the heel so you can glue the velcro strip to it.

Wide Shoe Sizes

About 1/3 of all hikers require footwear in wide widths. Companies such as Merrell, KEEN, Brooks, and Vasque have the best selection of wide-width hiking footwear.

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8 comments

  1. To your well chosen list Philip, I would add Topo Athletic Terraventure. I wore Lone Peaks a while a few years ago, but poor durability, poor wet traction and lack of arch support caused me to look around (now Long Peak is a better shoe, but still minimal arch support- their rep said they intend that).

    Topo has better quality materials and durability, very good arch support (no need to buy Superfeet). Very wide toe box, minimal drop – 3mm, rock plate protection, very grippy sole. They fit me like they were molded to my foot. Lone Peaks never did. Fit isn’t everything, but it’s what matters first!

    • I broke a big toenail hiking with them, so the protection wasn’t what I was looking for. But I do have friends who swear by the too.
      When it comes to insoles – I take matters into my own hands and a third party product like superfeet. With the exception of Oboz, the factor insoles that ship with hiking shoes and trail runners are foam crap.

      • I used Topo Ultraventure 2 last year on all my walks and I rated them the best shoe I have ever used. So good I have a new pair ready for this year’s hikes

    • Or any shoe from Topo really. I hiked in the Pursuits last year, and they were fantastic. I maybe missed having a rock plate though. Picked up the Terraventure 4’s for this year with REI’s member coupon (they sold out fast!). The toe protection looks plenty beefy to me, no different than the last pair or Lone Peaks I had in 2022. Probably more substantial since that was one of the first failure points of that shoe. Maybe they upgraded it from the 3? The Traverse also looks like a fantastic shoe, a trail runner specifically designed for hiking, but REI was sold out of them. Seems like the line span of Topo’s is how quickly the tread wears down instead of how soon the upper starts tearing, which I love. Nothing drives me more nuts than a shoe that’s falling apart with plenty of tread left on the outsole (looking at you, LP 5’s).

  2. I have never heard anyone describe the speedboats as having a “wide toe box.” The main complaint most people have about the speedboats is that they are very narrow, even in the wide width…

    • I agree. I used the Speedgoat 4’s. I had to buy a mens wide to accommodate a bunion I have. I thought I finally found what would be a close to perfect shoe. The new version of Speedgoats is narrower, even in the mens wide. Also, the volume of the shoe is less than the previous model and it puts pressure on the top of my foot. Topo’s curve upward at the toe putting pressure on the bunion. The Altra’s, even with Oboz inserts, don’t have enough structure and my feet ache by the end of the day. I sure wish the Speedgoats wouldn’t have changed.

  3. Why not HOKA MAFATE SPEED – I ranking it as one of the Hiking shoes on this planet

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