Best shoes for hard-packed trails

Our pick of the best trail shoes for when the going is good

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by Paul Halford |

Merrell Agility Peak 4

Merrell

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The first thing you notice when slipping your feet into the Merrells is the amount of cushioning on offer u2013 a far cry from the brandu2019s previous focus on zero-drop, barefoot footwear. And this FloatPro foam is one of the Agility Peak 4u2019s trump cards; hard-packed ground is bounded over with ease. An aggressive tread pattern provides grip where you need it, and the sticky Vibram MegaGrip sole has more than ample traction. The lacing is secure, thereu2019s a rock plate for protection, a decent toe bumper, and even a D-ring attachment point for gaiters. A 6mm drop puts them just on the right side of u2018paceyu2019, too. Weight: 295g (UK 8) Verdict: Really good all-rounder that's easy to get on with. (8/10)

Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

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Ultra legend Tom Evans is behind this shoe. u201cI wanted it to look sleek, aggressive and fastu201d, he said. u201cI also like seeing my socks through the shoe; it gives me the feeling that the shoe is very light. The team used translucent materials to achieve that. And I also wanted to make this shoe as lightweight as possible without compromising on performance.u201d So, did he? On a five-mile spin we ran more than two minutes quicker than the previous outing, proving theyu2019re very much about hitting the gas! Details include an 8mm drop, 2.5mm lugs, a cushioned outsole that develops 20% more response than the original Boost, and a breathable upper. Weight: 254g (UK11) Verdict: Be ready to be pleasantly surprised. (9/10)

Hoka One One Stinson ATR 6

Hoka One One Stinson ATR 6

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The sixth iteration of the Stinson ATR packs a lot of comfort and cushioning into an already decent long-distance shoe. Working off a 5mm drop, theyu2019re easier to adapt to than that stat might suggest, with an easy transition and toe-off through the gait cycle aided by phenomenal shock absorption. Widely spaced lugs and a wide footprint offer stability on trails and even occasional road, with a clever lacing system that spreads the load. They might not be the most featherweight shoes weu2019ve tested, but theyu2019re some of the comfiest. Also, theyu2019re constructed from post-consumer waste plastic, which is a major plus. Weight: 330g (UK 8) Verdict: Versatile off-roader with supreme cushioning. (9/10)

Evadict Race Light

Evadict Race Light

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Racing is back! And if youu2019re looking for a pair of shoes for your next fast one, these are a solid option. Think of the Race Light as a racing flat for trail running. Their 4mm drop gets you up on your toes, cushioning is there, though minimal, and the mesh upper is thin. Aggressive 5mm lugs slice through most terrain and really key into both wet and dry rocks. Everything about them is purposeful u2013 theyu2019re built up on a narrow last and you barely notice the 225g on each foot. PB hunting time is here. But bear in mind that, while the toebox is roomy, they do come up a bit long so itu2019s worth considering sizing down. Weight: 225 (UK 8) Verdict: Great lightweight race shoes at a great price. (8/10)

On Cloudultra

On Cloudultra
Amazon

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As the name suggests, this shoe has been engineered to tackle long races across variable terrain. Modest, well-spaced Missiongrip lugs perform this role very well, providing grip on loose gravel and lighter mud, but remain low-profile enough for road and hard packed trails. The midsole is snappy, utilising Onu2019s new Helion superfoam which was designed for marathon shoes. At 8mm of drop, we found it to be super smooth in transition, offering a nice pop, keeping you moving towards the end of longer runs. The upper is stripped back but has a superb construction, and although not plush, remains comfortable and secure. Weight: 295 (UK 8) Verdict: Top choice for everything from easy days to ultras. (8/10)

Newton Boco AT 5

Newton Boco AT 5

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Coming in a shade over u00a3100 puts this shoe on the wallet-friendly side of the spectrum, and it's a decent choice for anyone looking for speedier footwear. At first, Newtonu2019s signature Point Of Power lugs in the forefoot felt a little odd, encouraging a mid/forefoot strike and toe-off. But that changed into a pleasant ride that lends itself to fast running, and even more to intervals and hills. Protection from stones and rocks is surprisingly strong thanks to a good layer of outsole rubber and a nice toe protector. They strike a good balance of ground contact without being too extreme with their 3mm drop. Weight: 300g (UK 8) Verdict: A solid performer for picking it up on summer trails. (8/10)

Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 SG

Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 SG

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With a close fit and tipping the scales at just 215g, the Sense 8 SGs are a fit-and-forget solution to tackle every type of terrain. The high-topped silhouette and bright red colour certainly catch the eye, but once you slip them on and get going, itu2019s like theyu2019re hardly there. The upper is formed from elasticated knit fabric that is surprisingly supportive thanks to lockdown from the Quicklace system. At 4mm of drop, the midsole ride is responsive without being clunky or hard. They offer a nimble ride across most off-road terrain u2013 especially on grassy or soft trails u2013 thanks to Salomonu2019s Contragrip outsole. Weight: 215g (UK 8) Verdict: A featherweight competitor that packs a punch. (8/10)

INOV-8 TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX

INOV-8 TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX

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Following the launch of the graphene-outsoled G 270 three years ago, the innovative brand has now introduced the worldu2019s strongest and thinnest material to the midsole foam, too. The result, itu2019s claimed, is 25% more energy return, with the foam lasting twice as long. Offering more cushioning than perhaps any other Inov-8 trail shoe (and a 6mm drop) these are all about comfort over longer distances. However, they wonu2019t be ideal if you prefer light shoes or being closer to the ground. Better for harder-packed trails, and even road than thicker mud, theyu2019re a great choice for mixed-terrain runners who pack in the miles. Weight: 280g (UK 7.5) Verdict: Superb comfort for long runs over harder trails. (8/10)

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