As we head into winter, don’t let the weather keep you inside and off those muddy trails. We’ve corralled ten pairs of women’s trail running shoes to carry you through the stormy season. Tested in Northern California, these shoes have seen miles of the toughest trails the northern region of the state has to offer.
We were pleasantly surprised this testing season as we found that many of the women’s trail running shoes we ran in did well in a variety of conditions, which means companies are getting better at building shoes for multiple types of terrain. But for those of who run specific types of trails and want specific shoes, we have you covered.
For example, Hoka One One, Treksta, and Pearl Izumi are making shoes you’ll want to wear all the time: they have all the features for running on road, trail, or mine fields of sharp rocks. Companies like Salewa, Dynafit, and Merrell have a narrower audience, offering shoes designed for specific endeavors like speed or highly technical terrain. We’re looking at all facets of trail running, from mountain training and ultra-running to vertical running and even the “trail running looks cool and I want to try it” demographic.
How We Tested
We’re lucky up here in Northern California. The gods have graced us with miles of trails winding through forests, scaling ridgelines, and circumnavigating lakes. As we continue through winter and the weather proves unpredictable, these trails have become soft and supple leaving specs of mud on our calves and discoloring our shoes after the first outing.
We subjected each shoe to the same test course on one of Shasta County’s most versatile trails. Our shoes needed to experience rolling terrain, steep uphills, both hard- and loose-packed ground, and of course, a litany of obstacles. We ran this course in wet and dry weather, on warm and cold days. And while sneaking views of the Sacramento River and the Shasta Trinity National Forest, we were constantly being drawn back to how amazing these 10 shoes were.
We found that some shoes were amazing to wear the whole course, and some outperformed others on specific sections. As you move towards selecting the best trail running shoe for yourself, be aware of what style of terrain you’ll be running on and for how long. While some of the following models lend themselves to being the “one quiver” shoe, we found that others were built to thrive in specific conditions.
Assess the trail running shoe’s ability to confidently navigate varying trail conditions at speed
Ranges from materials selection to solid construction and a well-considered lacing system
Carries practical considerations including resisting abrasion, incursion of debris and eliminating foot-abrading seams
Not an isolated attribute, rewards the brand’s past and current investment in the other key attributes
In trail running, connects most closely with the trail shoe’s expected useful life at a worthwhile performance level – including multi-sport potential