With the increase in interest and participation in trail running, shoe companies have responded by designing and releasing more trail running shoes than ever. Some of these models are tried and true generalists which are adequate for all types of trails, whereas other models are highly specialized for the terrain and distance.

La Sportiva Helios 2.0

If you’re new to trail running La Sportiva is probably a brand you aren’t familiar with, though their Italian mountaineering heritage guarantees very high quality trail shoes.

A fantastic shoe for smooth dry trails, the Helios features La Sportiva’s Morpho Dynamic outsole which is both sticky and incredibly well cushioned, and at under eight ounces with a low 4mm drop, this is a shoe made for fast paced trail running. While the Helios 2.0 features a wide toe box and dynamic kevlar lacing, the upper has been accused of being a bit stiff and taking some break in time. Additionally, breathable upper does seem to have drainage issues after water crossings or in wet conditions.

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 3

While sometimes considered an all-around trail shoe, without a doubt the Terra Kiger 3 performs best on smooth and dry trails. Featuring Nike’s seamless Flymesh/ Flywire upper the Terra Kiger 3 is one of the best fitting shoes on the market. An innovative Mono-Wrap tongue wraps around the midfoot to provide protection from debris and a very secure fit. Nike’s Zoom Air pods in the heel and forefoot also add to the sensation of wearing a lightweight (9 ounces) racing flat with a 4mm heel drop. Nike employs their always effective waffle sole here to provide a fantastic grip on dry surfaces and rocks, and while this shoe lacks any sort of rock protection it will work fine on tamer trails.

Altra Olympus 2.0

For those unindoctrinated to maximal shoes the Olympus 2.0 can be quite a treat for the feet. Designed with ultra marathons in mind, this 12 ounce monster an incredible amount of cushioning and room for the toes without feeling overbearing or clunky. The Olympus actually does quite well on technical terrain but true comfort comes when cruising on mellow trail. For those curious in trying a maximal shoe the Olympus 2.0 is about as plush as they come thanks to Altra’s A bound cushioning and it features a zero drop just like all Altra shoes. The only complaint we’ve had about the Olympus 2.0 is the premature wearing of the outsole which made it difficult to find traction in loose, sandy, or slightly muddy conditions. However, the Olympus feels great on the roads and works well as a hybrid road-to-trail shoe.

Salomon Sense Mantra 3

Salomon uses all of their great minimal trail technologies plus some additional EVA cushioning to create the Mantra 3 which works incredibly well as a daily all-arounder. For those of us needing to run a couple of road miles to get to the trailhead, the Mantra 3 weighs 10.2 ounces and has a 6mm heel drop, and is more than capable of handling mild to moderate trail surfaces. Runners also love that the Mantra 3 features Salomon’s widest forefoot profile while still using their Quicklace system and ProFeel Film rock plate. While many trail runners gravitate towards Salomon’s more expensive offerings, the Mantra 3 should not be overlooked and will work for a wide variety of trail runners’ needs.