(Inga Hendrickson)
2019 Summer Buyer's Guide

The Best Trail Running Shoes of 2019

Heavy has gone the way of the dinosaur


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Scarpa Spin Ultra ($150)

(Courtesy Scarpa)

Creating a shoe that works for everything—from casual runs to blasting up and down the local hill after work to ultra-distance training and racing—is hard to do. But Scarpa accomplished it with the new Spin Ultra. Protection and supportive rigidity come from the combination of a durable Vibram Litebase outsole (40 percent thinner than standard rubber) and an H-shaped TPU insert that allows for some forefoot flexibility. Vibram Megagrip lugs serve up unparalleled traction. All-day comfort comes from ample cush (25-millimeter stack height) and a stretchy tongue that connects at the footbed, hugging your foot without suffocating it. All that greatness in a competitively lightweight package makes the Spin Ultra the only trail runner you need. 9.3 oz (men’s) / 7.8 oz (women’s); 6 mm drop

Men's Women's

Altra Superior 4 ($110)

(Courtesy Altra)

Best Comfort to Weight Ratio

The Superior gained some heft in its adolescence, leaving behind its nimble, lightweight childhood. But this year it’s back to its roots as a playful trail shoe with a top-to-bottom overhaul, including an 18 percent drop in weight from version 3.5. Altra introduces a new midsole, Quantic, a blend of firm and forgiving foam. And the upper, with its overlay-free design and burrito-wrap tongue, swaddles the midfoot. As usual, Altra’s wide toe box got mixed reviews. Still, this is the best Superior yet. 7.9 oz (men’s, pictured) / 6.3 oz (women’s); zero drop

Men's Women's

Merrell Antora ($110)

(Courtesy Merrell)

Best for Women

Sometimes claiming that a shoe (or any piece of gear) is designed for women is a marketing ploy. Not here. The Antora earned high marks from our female testers. “Felt natural for my feet,” said one. “Supportive and cushioned just right,” said another. The gender specificity comes courtesy of a midsole that’s plush at the heel and firmer under the big toe for stable transition, plus a higher arch, narrower heel, and wider toe box than in Merrell’s men’s shoes. The Vibram outsole and multidirectional lugs were grippy even on wet leaves. 8 oz; 5 mm drop

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Adidas Terrex Speed GTX ($180)

(Courtesy Adidas)

Best for Wet Trails

No need to approach messy trails with trepidation in this foul-weather gem. The lightweight Terrex Speed GTX is built for short and middle-distance trails. It debuts Gore-Tex’s new 3D Fit—an elastic layer that wraps the foot like a sock—and merges it with a waterproof knit upper. EVA in the midsole is firm but responsive. The short stack height keeps you low for precise footwork when the going gets technical, and Continental rubber provides some of the best traction in the business. 9.7 oz (men’s) / 8.3 oz (women’s); 6 mm drop

Men's Women's

Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 ($140)

(Courtesy Hoka One One)

Best All-Mountain Charger

There’s a reason the Speedgoat was a favorite with ultrarunners from the start—a couple, actually. The toothy Vibram Megagrip lugs offer killer traction, and that surefootedness, combined with massive Hoka cush, inspires confidence on technical terrain. Updates on the third version include an integrated tongue and repositioned overlays to help minimize foot slippage on steeps, and a heartier toe bumper to protect against rocks. But the Speedgoat 3 still feels, as testers put it, “light and flexible.” 10.3 oz (men’s) / 9.1 oz (women’s, pictured); 4 mm

Men's Women's

Arc’teryx Norvan SL ($150)

(Courtesy Arc’teryx)

Best for Short Races

The sleek Norvan SL features a thin tongue and low profile around the heel collar, minimal cushioning, and amazing traction on everything from slabs to mud (thanks to a Vibram Megagrip outsole). But with minimalism comes rocks and roots poking up underfoot, which had us maneuvering around those obstacles—not a bad thing. In fact, testers called this shoe “downright fun.” Flexibility and low weight make the Norvan a good choice for quick jaunts. Hydrophobic mesh gives it serious warm-weather chops. 6.5 oz (men’s) / 5.6 oz (women’s, pictured); 7 mm drop

Men's Women's

Saucony Switchback ISO ($140)

(Courtesy Saucony)

Best for Well-Groomed Trails

What do you get when you take the soul of Saucony’s 2017 Gear of the Year–winning Freedom ISO road shoe and layer it with a trail-ready outsole? A dynamo that excels at flying over smooth terrain. With an Everun midsole, the Switchback ISO delivers a snappy, responsive ride. Runners seeking a natural feel will enjoy its sensitivity underfoot, but beware of rocks. On-the-fly lace adjustments are easy with the Boa system. If ripping down level trails is your jam, this shoe won’t disappoint. 9.8 oz (men’s, pictured) / 8.8 oz (women’s); 4 mm drop

Men's Women's​​​​​​​

From Summer 2019 Buyer’s Guide Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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