Same ol’ concrete running route feeling a little, well, old? Good news: Trail running is having a much-deserved (and much-needed) moment — and we’re oh-so-here for it.
Those smart folks are onto something: Exercising in nature actually quiets the part of the brain associated with overthinking, says research published by PNAS. (Can we say “yes, please”?!) But what’s even cooler is that you can re-create the soothing effects if you’re exercising inside these days. Studies show that just looking at images of the great outdoors while running on a tread makes you happier.
Still, if you can swing it, getting into the fresh air for a few miles will do your brain and body major good. “Being on the trails is the perfect way to turn off the noise of our lives,” says ultra trail runner Gina Lucrezi.
“Trail running makes me feel alive,” says Lynn Hollis, one of over 100 female trail runners we surveyed for this story. “People always ask what I think about on the trails, but for me, the appeal is that I can’t think. I can’t think about what’s for dinner. I can only focus on where to step and the beauty around me.”
Likewise, runner after runner said that hitting the trails helps them unplug, be present (tripping over rocks is a real prob), and enjoy just putting one foot in front of the other—simple pleasures that seem more important in stressful times. So given all the good vibes up for grabs, the question is: Are you ready for this movement magic? The first step toward making that happen is finding a solid pair of trail running shoes. Here are 7 of the best on the market at the moment.
1/Brooks Running Cascadia 14
Best for: Wet weather
You need a steady, non-slip and waterproof shoe when heading out in rainy weather — or even post-downpour when the trails get muddy. This sneaker steps up for you. “They keep your feet dry and protected, while the grip on the bottom keeps you from slipping on wet rocks,” says Katie Mackey, a Brooks Beasts athlete. You can thank the Gore-Tex upper and rubber bottom for that support.
2/Salomon Sense Ride 3
Best for: Everyday runs
Feel stability underfoot, without carrying around tons of weight with this durable shoe. The grip on the sole is great, and the comfortable upper helps with support and breathability. They’re the perfect ‘go-to’ shoe for training.
3/New Balance Summit Unknown
Best for: Running fast
“For me, the mark of a great trail shoe is one that locks my foot in and feels like a natural extension of my stride,” says Katie Grossman, a Team New Balance trail runner. “This one helps me attack climbs more effortlessly and the descents more confidently.”
4/Hoka One One Speedgoat 4
Best for: Sharp inclines
Wear these kicks to tackle tough hills. With a no-slip outsole and great grip, you can climb up or down with ease. That’s why it’s a go-to on mountain terrain for Roche. “It’s grippy and responsive on steep uphills, while giving me confidence on any type of downhill,” she says.
5/Altra Superior 4.0
Best for: Feeling the trail
Amanda Basham, pro runner and endurance coach, did the TransAlpine Run in these sneaks, covering roughly 250 kilometres and 1,645 metres of vertical gain. So, clearly they hold up to some tough battles. “I love [the Superior] because you can feel the trail, while still having plenty of support and cushion,” she says. “The traction is incredible and has helped with my downhill running.”
6/Saucony Women’s Peregrine 10 ST
Best for: Grip on the trail
The refreshed PWRTRAC rubber lugs on the bottom of this pair make us feel like badasses powering up hills, yet the flexibility in the sole is built for speed.
7/Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail
Best for: Trail to street style
The perfect combo of style and function, Nike’s Air Zoom Pegasus 36 trail shoe goes the (rocky) distance. It features an impossible-to-tear upper, a super cushiony midsole, and outsole lugs for traction.