281g (UK 8)
Hoka might not have invented the lightweight cushioned shoe, but it certainly knows how
to do it well. The Speedgoat 3 provides what feels like day-long comfort on harder surfaces. The fit is locked down, if on the narrow side, which almost makes it feel like you’re wearing a second skin, albeit one with grippy lugs on the underside. Shock absorbance for heel strikers is there in abundance, with a profile that rolls the foot foreword to toe-off with more purpose than these shoes’ slightly orthopaedic appearance might otherwise suggest. Not cheap, but exceptional performers. Heel to toe drop is 4mm.
Verdict: Stacks of cushion, bags of bounce. High performers.
291g (UK 8)
A thin, lightweight and breathable upper makes these feel like old friends the minute you lace them up, while the combination of a cushioned midsole and pockets of air in the outsole gives the impression of simply sinking into the Cloudventures. A 6mm offset ensures that they will suit most runners, with a decidedly neutral ride. Those odd-looking ‘clouds’ grip like a brickie’s handshake, and it’s also worth noting that the toe bumper feels substantially more protective than that found on the Inov-8 shoes also tested here. And no, we didn’t pick up any small stones in the air gaps of the outsole...
Like sinking into a comfy mattress... for your feet.
320g (UK 8)
Right, whose bright idea was an all-white trail running shoe? Accept the fact that these
will never look as good again after your first run (actually, baby wipes help...) and they’re actually exceptional performers. They’re roomy at the toes, very flexible and also breathable. The Boa dial closure gives you a perfect fit in seconds, too. Impact absorption from the thick midsole foam is positively bouncy, really putting a spring in the step. Continental rubber (widely used in adidas running shoes) provides high grip for dry trails. The only niggle we have is that the stiff tongue is very long and rubs a little on the lower shin. 6mm drop.
Precise-fitting, grippy shoe for those wide of toe.
329g (UK 8.5)
With an inner sock system negating the need for a tongue, these shoes wrap around the foot and feel secure on the go. New Balance’s Fresh Foam midsole is used on its marathon running shoes; it’s built to go the distance, and we felt we could do so in comfort and with ease with the 8mm drop Hierros on our feet. Cushioning is top-drawer, but the response was there when we needed
it, too. In all, these are a very stable pair of shoes with grip to match anything on these pages. They’re a little on the weighty side if that bothers you, but we can’t find much else to nit-pick at. A fine choice for summer running.
Locked-down fit and exceptional cushioning.
300g (UK 8)
A roomy toebox allied to a lightweight and breathable upper ensures that these shoes score highly in the comfort stakes. Shock absorption and energy return are also of a very high standard; we found our pace picking up when wearing the 290s, even when out for what we'd planned to be an easy run. There is a rubber toe bumper at the front to protect from stray rocks, but we’d say these shoes are in their element on simple singletrack and forest roads; they realy excel on dry trails. Which isn’t to say they’re lacking grip: the flexible outsole has you covered for digging in and pushing on when the need arises. 8mm drop.
Comfy, roomy Jack-of-all-trades. recommended.
257g (UK 8)
Low-profile and lightweight, the Sense ride 2s operate off an 8mm heel to toe drop, giving
a neutral feeling that at home equally with rolling along at chatting pace or really getting a shift on down fire roads. The cushioned midsole lacks little in the response department, either. Although the outsole's lugs are shallow and widely spaced, they’re surprisingly grippy, so will take you confidently over hardtop and rocks as well as parched trails. Venting is decent for summer use, too. We’re not huge fans of the ‘quicklace’ system, though – who doesn’t have time to tie their laces? Fool-proof systems like adidas's Boa dial are better.
Verdict: Lightest shoe on test, and very versatile.
341g (UK 8) £139.99
These are the closest you’ll find in this test to what feels like a fast road shoe built for the trails. The levels of bounce per ounce (8.5oz per shoe, for imperial measurement fans) are sky-high; each footfall is absorbed then translated into responsive, motive force to power you along parched tracks. Head into technical terrain and the incredibly flexible lugs on the outsole provide peerless grip. They might be the most expensive shoes on test, but if you can stretch to them they’re something else. It’s worth noting that, while they felt stable and secure, the midfoot is rather narrow. 8mm drop.
Verdict: Springy sole and exceedingly good grip
304g (UK 8) £109.99
We couldn’t imagine wanting any more grip this summer than that which is provided by the peregrine iso. The Powertrac outsole provides exemplary traction on whatever surface you care to tread on, and its flexible nature resists rolling of the foot, possibly even helping to prevent ankle injuries out on the trails. Although not the lightest shoe here, these are certainly some of the best vented, with our feet feeling comfortable and dry throughout. Cushioning is right up there with the best, too. Their 4mm offset will suit those with upping the pace in mind, and those runner with well- conditioned feet.
Verdict: Traction- packed and very breathable
Inov-8 Mudclaw G260
262g (UK 8)
As purposeful a shoe as you’re likely to find for days when the going gets sloppy. The 8mm rubber lugs – enhanced with graphene for superior grip – wobble around like the knobbly tyres on a motocross bike if you need to run on tarmac between trails, but once out on open fields, muddy tracks and the like, they dig in to provide sure-footed progress at speed. Being lightweight and narrower along their length (especially in the toebox) than other Inov-8 shoes we’ve tested, they lend themselves to the toughest of races. A 4mm drop gets you up on your toes, while the deep lugs shed mud surprisingly well, so grip remains consistent.
Verdict: Supreme traction, brilliant adherence to frosty hardtop.
Scarpa Spin RS
265g (UK 10)
Three or four seasons ago Scarpa shoes were a bit unforgiving. Today there’s a much more flexible feel to proceedings. Still true to its mountain roots, the Spin RS is a solid, harder feeling shoe, but today there’s a responsive feel once you take them off-road. We put these shoes through their paces on some pretty sticky surfaces and as long as you’re a forefoot striker, you’re on to a winner. For a narrow looking shoe, there’s plenty of room in the toebox. The Spin RS is light, with a sock-fit and Vibram outsole, so you feel secure at pace. The 8mm drop makes the RS very easy to get on with straight out of the box.
Verdict: A shoe that really encourages you to drive off your toes.
240g (UK 9)
Straight out of the cushioned world of shoes, you’ll find yourself atop a blown rubber outsole, injection moulded midsole, driving off from a snappy, responsive base. For something that looks bulky and a little unforgiving, this is a surprisingly light, competitive shoe with a zero drop. It’s also oddly stiff and a little harder, which is counter-intuitive given its appearance. That’s not a bad thing, more unexpected given the shoe looks a bit waterbed-like. Keep them on footpaths and more predictable surfaces and you’ll be happy enough. Further up the hill and you’ll find the grip a little lacking. Also, mud tends to cling a little.
Verdict: A fast, light shoe that will enjoy canal paths.
Saucony Peregrine ISO
298g (UK 7)
The ninth edition of Saucony's all-rounder offers a very smooth ride thanks to a great mix of cushioning, durability and grip. Our tester took them for a spin from the door, out on to a gravel track and then on to some thick mud. We had no problems staying on our feet on the latter, though you'll probably want something a bit more aggressive if you're going to be focusing on boggy fells and parkland. The low-profile 4mm drop meant they were great on a faster-paced run and added to their responsive feel. Coupled with the now well-established ISOFIT upper, which helps mould the shoe to your foot, this made them a joy.
Verdict: Adaptable road-to-trail favourite with great comfort.
Hoka Speedgoat 3
292g (UK 9)
A wider toe box and changes to the heel of this updated model make for an even more stable platform. Grip is excellent thanks to the Vibram Megagrip lugs which work superbly on wetter, technical trail. There’s a solid feel to these low profile (4mm heel to toe drop) shoes; not at the expense of cushioning but more how your foot responds on contact with the ground. You feel secure and happy driving off wet, soft surfaces and cushioned enough to take them on the road every now and then. A real plus is their surprisingly light weight and the additional support they provide. Perfect for an off-road half marathon, or further.
Verdict: Cushioned, responsive lover of technical terrain.
Dynafit Feline Up Pro
240g (UK 9.5)
Out of the greyhound stable of shoes, Dynafit describe these lightweight shoes as perfect for vertical running and we’re going to do nothing to change that opinion, although Vertical Kilometres were few and far between for our testing team! These are almost like cross-country spikes from last century such is their low profile (a 4mm drop) and tight fit, but that’s not at the expense of cushioning. The Vibram Megagrip sole provides an acceptably cushioned ride despite it saving 25% of the shoe’s weight. You will need moderately dry conditions to fully benefit from the grip – OK in mud but great on drier paths.
Verdict: Love them for what they are: racing machines.
Haglöfs Observe GT Surround
360g (UK 8.5)
This is a bit of a mix and match shoe; happy to handle long walks in the hills, it also lends itself to running easily. Indeed, as far as we’re concerned its far more of a lightweight running shoe than walking boot, although apparently the walking crowd quite like it thanks to its supportive base. What is certain is that the Gore-Tex upper is nice and breathable and there’s a definite light and flexible feel off what you’d describe as a solid base. Grip is acceptable for most paths and moderately damp conditions, making it an everyday shoe. It looks good, feels good and works off a 10mm drop.
Verdict: Everyday type of shoe for most conditions.
Adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX
340g (UK 9)
There’s no doubting they’re tough and rugged with plenty of grip thanks to the Gore-Tex lining and Continental rubber outsole. But what you perhaps don’t expect is the low profile these shoes provide, working off a 9mm drop. What you get is a harder feeling shoe that uses Adidas’s Boost system for cushioning (more commonly found on their road shoes). But deep, A-shaped multi-directional lugs confirm the shoes' off-road bent. The back two-thirds has reversed lugs for better braking power when going downhill. A nice touch. Be aware Adidas sizes often come up narrow in the forefoot and can be half a size too small.
Verdict: Performance, especially in testing conditions.
Dynafit Feline SL
290g (men's UK 7) £135
With its rigid structure and overall look, the Dynafit Feline SL appears at first glance to be a beast of a shoe. However, at 290g, it's surprisingly light and comfortable. Our tester was able to wear them straight out of the box on a seven-mile road and trail run without any issues. However, this shoe is designed for use on rough terrain in the mountains and serious off-roaders won't be disappointed, thanks to the 'ballistic' bumpers in the heel and toe and a multipad midsole to reduce the effect of impact. We love the easy lacing system, plus the Vibram outsole, which offers a sturdy grip. The shoe also has an 8mm drop.
Verdict: The comfort of a road shoe with the grip of a trail shoe.
Scott Supertrac RC
250g (men's UK 8) £130
Traction is the name of the game for Scott shoes, and that's definitely the case in the RC. You’ll be impressed with the super-light feel this shoe offers – it’s pretty low to the ground, with a 5mm drop and you’ll feel like picking the pace up for sure. And this is partly as a result of the multi-directional lugs, which rather than simply dig in, adapt to the rolling nature of off-road running to make you feel pretty secure. In this instance, the lugs aren’t as deep as other shoes, so fell runners might not appreciate that but regular trail runners – mixing road, with paths and fields – will enjoy the security and performance on offer.
Verdict: Fast and furious; a good shoe for most conditions.
We take a look at a road classic which could be used for trail
Asics GT-2000 7
This favourite from Asics is classed as a road shoe but is also a great option for anyone considering their first move on to light trail paths this spring. Gel in the forefoot and heel give good cushioning, whilst the upper supports your foot but also allows plenty of movement. The outsole is great for road surfaces, but also has plenty of grip for gravel paths and mild trails.
La Sportiva Mutant
310g (men's UK 9) £115
The Mutant is straight out of the heavier, wider platform school of trail shoes. Despite its relatively high 10mm drop, it does feel like a responsive, faster shoe. The grip is good, with the Frixion XF outsole working particularly well on muddy paths. Fit is good, holding your foot in place on demanding terrain. You’ll be more than happy to take it out onto muddy, rocky areas as the upper consists of a single breathable, abrasion-resistant mesh and integrated gaiter.
The SpyralTongue lacing system is integrated to the uppers through the FusionGate. It's a nice idea, but feels a little bit over-engineered and fiddly.
Verdict: A supportive shoe that can cope with every off-road trail.