Published on: 07/18/2022
Last updated on: 01/03/2023
In a hurry? Go directly to the top 11.
Trail runners looking for the perfect shoe face many choices these days: from shoes for soft terrain, wet rocks, or boggy ground, to road-to-trail models made for almost any terrain, there’s something for everyone.
We have reviewed the overall best trail running shoes to look at the best options on the market in 2022. However, it’s worth looking into shoes for women specifically, as well, when it comes to comfort and fit.
This is why we’ve researched the 11 best women’s trail running shoes to see how they compare in terms of grip, comfort levels, types of cushioning, terrain they’re best suited to, and more.
Read on to find out how we’ve made our choices of top running shoes and which ones made the cut!
At Runner’s Lab, we continually analyze reviews from trail running experts, experienced runners, and professional athletes to determine what makes a top trail running shoe. We comb through their actual on-trail tests, looking for their pros and cons around each shoe.
It’s worth highlighting that users’ reviews are highly personal and subjective, which is why we look at how often specific comments appear in reviews to determine patterns and commonalities between reviews.
We also use scientific research evidence to look deeper into subjective claims made. We compile the most objective summary of each trail shoe, starting with the facts communicated by shoe manufacturers and finishing with empirical data on the topics covered (from the actual weight and stack height to grip on various types of ground and more).
How Do Women’s Trail Running Shoes Differ From Men’s?
Most brands typically create men’s and women’s trail running shoes from the same core model. The difference between the two is usually in size – especially the width, which aims to mimic the natural foot shapes of male and female runners. In most cases, the heel is tighter than the forefoot and toe area for women’s shoes.
Additionally, women and men have different physiological factors that manufacturers account for. The Q-angle (1) – the angle of incidence of the quadriceps relative to the knee cap – influences the shape and design of the shoes. Women have wider hips, leading to wider Q-angles than men, causing them to pronate (2) more.
This leads to needing extra support in the shoe to prevent the inside of the foot from rolling in too much towards the center of gravity when running. For some shoe designers, this means using a different material for the midsole or outsole of women’s trail running shoes.
Finally, when designing women’s shoes, the effect of their lighter weight by comparison to men is taken into account. As a result, these shoes aim to sustain less force from each foot strike, making them lighter and softer through the midsole than men’s shoes.
Our Selection of the Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023
|Shoe||Heel height||Drop||Weight||Cushioning||Best for||Best offer|
|Salomon Sense Ride 4||27 mm||8 mm||9.3 oz/265 g||Firm||Road-to-trail runs||Check prices →|
|Salomon Speedcross 5||30 mm||10 mm||9.9 oz/280 g||Balanced||Muddy and steep trails||Check prices →|
|On Running Cloudultra||36 mm||8 mm||9.6 oz/272 g||Firm||Ultramarathons||Check prices →|
|Hoka Speedgoat 5||33 mm||4 mm||8.5 oz/240 g||Balanced||Long and technical races||Check prices →|
|Altra Mont Blanc||32 mm||0 mm||8.4 oz/238 g||Soft||Zero drop shoe fans||Check prices →|
|Decathlon Evadict TR2||n/a||8 mm||9.5 oz/270 g||Balanced||Trail novices on a budget|
|Topo Athletic MTN Racer 2||30 mm||5 mm||8.6 oz/244 g||Balanced||Wide feet||Check prices →|
|Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra||26 mm||8 mm||8.4 oz/238 g||Firm||Speed and lightness||Check prices →|
|New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7||28 mm||8 mm||8.3 oz/235 g||Soft||Beginner trail runners||Check prices →|
|Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT||21 mm||6 mm||8.1 oz/230 g||Balanced||Carbon plate||Check prices →|
|La Sportiva Akasha II||31 mm||6 mm||10.1 oz/286 g||Firm||Ecofriendliness||Check prices →|
1. Salomon Sense Ride 4: Road to trail pick
Salomon’s versatile Sense Ride collection has been a hit from day 1. These ideal road-to-trail running shoes are at home on hard-packed trails but can also be comfortable to wear on the road. Their effective lugs and sticky rubber outsole make them very responsive on rough terrain. However, wet ground remains Salomon’s Achilles’ heel despite significant improvements in the grip of its Contagrip outsole.
Salomon has consistently made great running shoes for women thanks to their preference for a narrow midfoot design, and the Salomon Sense Ride 4 plays right into that. They offer a stable ride (pun intended!) on various terrains and give you some of the benefits this manufacturer is known for: great breathable upper, signature Quicklace system that works a treat, good balance between responsiveness and cushioning, and an excellent fit for narrow feet.
2. Salomon Speedcross 5: Best for muddy and steep trails
If you run more in muddy, wet conditions, then the Salomon Speedcross 5 are the trail shoes for you. Thanks to 6 mm deep lugs, which are arrow-shaped to increase traction on wet ground, the Speedcross has been preferred by fall trail runners and those running on technical terrain that requires an aggressive profile.
Be careful, though: the Speedcross lugs wear off quickly if taken on hard-packed trails or roads, so they’re not the most durable shoe outside muddy environments. Pick these for your winter trail races instead. With a 10 mm heel-to-toe drop, they are also perhaps less stable than other trail running shoes on non-technical terrain, so they are best matched to more experienced runners than beginners.
3. On Running Cloudultra: Best for ultramarathons
Swiss manufacturer On Running’s Cloudultra shoes are narrow through the midfoot with an excellently fitting “sock” that keeps away trail debris and holds the foot well during long runs. The heel is also very stable and tight, while the forefoot is generous enough to allow your toes to splay naturally and stay comfortable during ultras.
The unusual, distinctive CloudTec sole featured in all On shoes increases stack height without sacrificing stability, although the more experienced trail runner will find these shoes less responsive. This isn’t necessarily bad, given that they perform very well on most types of terrain over ultra distances of 50 km and over.
Alternative pick: Salomon Ultra Glide
For those looking for a somewhat similar highly cushioned shoe for the long run, Salomon Ultra Glide – relatively new on the market – is also an excellent contender for those looking for a similar highly cushioned shoe for the long run. Although marketed as a narrower fit, they are wider through the mid-foot than the Cloudultra, so they would suit someone who finds the former too rigid for their liking. They offer a smaller heel-to-toe drop (only 6 mm) and are slightly lighter (260 g in the same size 40) but feel relatively clunkier than the Cloudultra when tested on longer distances.
Both shoes have one common drawback: traction on wet terrains. Nothing beats a Vibram outsole when it comes to wet conditions, and neither On Running nor Salomon use the technology in their collections. But, for most types of weather, both are excellent ultra-distance shoes that combine versatility with comfort and a cool design. You can get the Salomon Ultra Glide here.
4. Hoka One One Speedgoat 5: Ample cushioning for long distances on technical surfaces
The Speedgoat series has been “queen of the trails” for so many years, thanks to its robust, maximally cushioned design, making it one of the best trail running shoes for women who race ultra distances. This versatile trail running shoe suits experienced runners who like its sticky rubber sole and the solid stack. At the same time, many runners find the underfoot feel pretty awkward in the Speedgoat, unlike in the speedier Torrent 2, which gives you responsiveness in return for moderate foot protection.
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is excellent for ultras where you need to “get a grip”: the Vibram Megagrip outsole keeps you stable on all terrains. Hoka has also updated the lugs, with 5 mm depth and a pattern that sticks to anything. They also provide great protection underfoot, thanks to the solid stack.
The Speedgoat only has a small 4 mm heel-to-toe drop, but for those who want a zero drop shoe with a wide toe box that replicates the excellent cushioning underfoot, an alternative is the Altra Olympus 4. Slightly heavier at 285 g, the Altras benefit from the Vibram Megagrip outsole, fantastic underfoot protection, and the signature FootShape design that will help those who struggle with blisters leave their toes to spread out more naturally.
5. Altra Mont Blanc: Zero drop excellence
Brand new Altra Mont Blanc is the epitome of zero drop excellence: lightweight, comfortable, with a roomy toe box that helps avoid blisters and swelling… except for the zero drop, they would be the perfect long-distance trail running shoe for women!
We are not against zero-drop shoes, but they take some time to become accustomed to and can lead to pain in the Achilles tendon. However, if that’s your type of shoe, you must run in the Mont Blancs! With a name to inspire trail runners everywhere, the Mont Blancs are designed for speed and lightweight performance without compromising stability and cushioning.
Thanks to the EGO midsole foam’s lighter iteration – EGO Max – these shoes give a supportive feeling underfoot that makes them more runnable than the Altra Lone Peak 6 while allowing runners to cover longer distances. The Mont Blancs have an additional 5 mm of stack height compared to the latest Lone Peak but remain responsive and fun to run in.
6. Decathlon Evadict TR2: Budget shoe for trail novices
Decathlon has made some amazing progress in their trail running shoe range for those who are just starting out on the trails and want to find their feet first. The Evadict TR2 are great running shoes for less technical trails and a mix of road and trail. With great foot support and a soft, medium cushioning, Decathlon recommends wearing these for runs up to 40 km long, but it’s really up to how responsive and comfortable of a trail shoe you need and in which circumstances.
They don’t weigh a lot, they have a very accessible 8 mm drop and EVA foam in the midsole, which allows them to be very versatile and offer a stable ride. An interesting added feature is the extremely flexible outsole (made with Decathlon’s FLEX-H design), which will delight those looking for more responsiveness from their shoe. Also, 4 mm lugs give you a good grip on muddy trails.
Obviously, the key reason to choose Decathlon’s Evadict TR2 is that they give you the best trail shoe for a low budget. There’s no super sophisticated rock plate, arrow-shaped lugs, or any other amazing technology here, but what they’re working with gives great results and will suit any road runner looking to break onto the trails. So, as far as cheap and cheerful trail shoes go, you really can’t go wrong with these!
7. Topo Athletic MTN Racer 2: Best for wide feet
There are lots of “wide foot” friendly shoes for women, but none offer the exceptional traction and the comfortable shoe experience that Topo Athletic have managed to create with the second edition of their MTN Racer. Don’t be fooled by the name: you don’t have to run up mountains in them, but they’ll be a comfortable shoe in all types of environments, whether on rough terrain or on more hard-packed trails.
Thanks to the Vibram Megagrip outsole, you shouldn’t have any issues running in muddy or wet terrain. With a decent stack height underfoot, you’ll be protected on uneven trails, but you’ll still feel that you’re running in a relatively lightweight shoe that allows for some racing speed if that’s what you’re after.
There’s no rock plate, and the outsole is quite flexible on the Topo MTN Racer, so those who enjoy more responsiveness from their regular running shoes will enjoy these. The MTN Racer 2 looks a bit like Altra shoes, with great midfoot and heel stability but a wide toe box. You’ll notice three different foams in the midsole, firmer on the medial side and softer on the lateral side. Finally, unlike most women’s shoes, the MTN Racer 2 doesn’t get narrow in the midfoot – this makes it ideal for wide feet and also confers more of a feeling of stability without being clunky.
8. Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra: Best for speed and lightness
While Adidas may be best known for their road running shoes, their Terrex arm has been making huge progress for the trails. With some amazing professional trail runners like New Zealander Ruth Croft (freshly crowned Western States 100 Endurance Run women’s champion in 2022) and Brit Tom Evans (who collaborated on these shoes’ design) headlining those wearing their kit, they’re making a good case for fast and light trail apparel that works.
You can consider the Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra to be the brand’s trail version of the Ultraboost road running range, which features a proprietary boost cushioning, giving the shoes a great amount of responsiveness and energy return while keeping them comfortable for long runs on the trails. One of the star features is also the breathable lightweight mesh upper, which makes these ideal summer trail shoes for women.
As for the outsole, Adidas has used Continental rubber, which gives these shoes a good grip on all surfaces. Famed as a manufacturer of car and bike tires, Continental has been working with Adidas on their road running shoes for over 10 years, so the products for trails are also of high quality and come from a tried and tested formula. Finally, another key Adidas feature in the Speed Ultra is the Torsion System between the forefoot and the rearfoot lugs. This insert allows more flexibility through the middle of the shoe, with added stability as well. The positive is that you have a smooth transition from heel to toe. The negative is that there are no lugs in this section, so you’ll be gathering mud on wetter runs.
Alternative pick: Salomon S/Lab Pulsar Trail
These are great trail running shoes for women racing up to 50k or 50 miles. A similar fast and light option, also created in collaboration with a professional trail runner, is the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar. There are lightweight trail running shoes… and then there’s the Pulsar! Coming in at an extremely 156 g only, this is the ultimate racing shoe for up to the 50k distance for mere mortals. With the lightest midsole Salomon has ever produced, the Pulsars were created specifically to help trail running legend Kilian Jornet break course records. And that’s exactly what they achieved when first used as a prototype at the Sierre Zinal (3) race in 2019 (when Kilian broke a 16-year-old record over the 31 km distance).
The S/Lab Pulsar Trail are excellent for fast training and racing on mostly dry terrain, with Salomon’s usual problem around slipping on wet ground. They’re not durable shoes, made first and foremost for being fast and light. This is why we wouldn’t recommend them for those looking to do their long runs in them, but they’re definitely great for good weather Skyrunning! Get them here.
9. New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7: A beginner’s all-rounder
The Fresh Foam X Hierro range from New Balance has been consistently a hit with those looking for good cushioning underfoot coupled with stability and grip on all types of terrains. But, until the 7th version launched in 2022, it was also a clunkier, heavier shoe with a thick upper that gave many runners shin and foot pains when done up too tight. That has all changed with the latest iteration, reducing the stack height and making the shoes more responsive, less clunky, and a hard-to-beat all-rounder for trail running in almost any conditions.
The Hierro v7 keeps a fantastic Fresh Foam midsole that made it such a comfortable ride, able to withstand anything from sharp rocks to smooth grassy slopes. However, New Balance has reduced the shoe’s outsole dimensions and stack height in this version, saving about 38 g from v6. This means less cushioning in the forefoot than before and less of the extended outsole that made the shoes look almost too wide and unwieldy in previous versions. Some would complain about the reduction in cushioning, but the shoes gain in speed and lightweight comfort for those who are used to a more minimalist shoe or coming into the trail from road running.
Stylish and grippy
The Vibram Megagrip outsole remains the shining star of the New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7, with excellent traction on all terrains and carefully positioned lugs that make sure you won’t slip in wet conditions. Overall, these shoes are great for women just starting out on trails who don’t want a zero drop design but enjoy a down-to-earth ride to feel the trail beneath when running while also needing some cushioning and trail-specific features. And to top it all off, they look extremely stylish too, with an amazing color scheme setting them apart from all other trail running shoes.
10. Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT: Carbon plate for the mountains
The legendary mountaineering apparel company Scarpa has been making strides in the trail running world, launching the exceptional Golden Gate Kima RT to bring together speed, flexibility, durability, and comfort. Nothing can fault these new trail running shoes for women, designed to reduce fatigue and keep you running light into ultra distances. Ideally fitted to the midfoot for narrower feet, the Golden Gate Kima offers a wide and comfortable toe box to allow for long-distance running. With 4 mm lugs, they ride well through muddy trails but are also at home on hard-packed terrain thanks to cushioning that makes the shoe comfortable while not excessively padded.
Developed with Skyrunning legend Marco de Gasperi, these shoes are named after one of the Holy Grail races of the trail running world – Trofeo Kima (4). But don’t be fooled; this is not a shoe made for technical trails only! Yes, Trofeo Kima is extremely technical, but it’s also set on rocky terrain, for which you need not only good grip but also nice comfortable cushioning and a stable ride. All of which the Scarpa pair delivers, making them a trail running shoe for almost any location.
Unlike other trail running shoes that have been made too heavy by adding a carbon plate, the Golden Gate Kima stays dynamic and gives lots of energy, especially on harder terrain. Moreover, the midsole is tight fitting without feeling rigid, creating that “sock” like feeling that we’ve appreciated in the On Running Cloudultra and Salomon Sense Ride 4.
Finally, both heel protection and toe cover do an excellent job of keeping your feet safe from injuries on the trail. All in all, for a carbon plate trail running shoe, the Golden Gate Kima really cannot be faulted.
11. La Sportiva Akasha II: Best eco-friendly mountain running shoe
Among those brands who have embraced more eco-conscious manufacturing practices, La Sportiva stands out for using recycled materials while not compromising on the exceptional quality of their cushioned trail running shoe, Akasha II. With proprietary Ortholite Hybrid laces and the footbed now made from recycled materials, the Akashas continue to offer great protection on the trails and enough cushioning to get you through a 100k event unscathed.
Designed for long distances, the second version of the Akasha features some improvements for added comfort and stability. These include reinforcements on the upper and the STB stability system made to create a very secure grip on the foot. Moreover, the outsole is made of sticky rubber that helps the shoes navigate through wet weather and all terrain easily. It also features La Sportiva’s Trail Rocker technology, made to support a natural rocking motion from heel to toe that prevents injuries and facilitates natural movement on mountain trails.
In short, these are La Sportiva’s all-terrain, all-weather long-distance trail running shoes that tick almost all the boxes while catering to the environmental concerns around overconsumption.
Picking the best trail running shoes for women in 2023
Despite all the research, finding the best trail running shoes for you is a matter of trial and error. Any pair you buy needs to be considered against the type of terrain, the weather, the overall conditions you’re preparing to run in, and the distance and technicality of the trails. Shoes that work great on hard-packed, flatter trails may not give you the grip you need on wet rocks or the responsiveness required to navigate tricky climbs and technical descents. This is why we’ve aimed to give you the best of each relevant category in the ever-growing discipline of trail running, starting with shorter distances and carrying on to ultramarathons.
To break in your shoes and ensure they are the best option for you, always try them on varied terrain and over a good length of time to be confident that they’re the best pick for race day. Or, if simply running for fun, experiment until you find a few favorite pairs to pick, depending on what you feel like running on a certain day.
Measurement of the quadriceps (Q) angle with respect to various body parameters in young Arab population
Khasawneh et al. (2019)
What’s the Difference Between Supination and Pronation?