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The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023

From muddy local trails to epic mountain runs, we've found the best trail running shoes for women.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Women Review 2018
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Sure, you could get away with wearing normal sneakers on the trail, but having a pair of trail-specific running shoes provides increased comfort, grip, and protection from rocks and debris.

From the forest trails of the American South to the rocky peaks of the Pacific Northwest, we spent months running, hiking, and testing to find the best trail running shoes for women. While testing, we focused on choosing a variety of shoe styles to fit each runner’s needs and feet — because the shoe each trail runner needs is as unique as the trails they run.

Whether you prefer a minimalist feel, extra cushion, extreme grip, or a do-it-all workhorse, we’re confident you’ll find a new favorite running shoe here. Get ready to lace up and hit the trails.

Be sure to check out our handy comparison chart, buyer’s guide, and FAQ at the bottom of this article for help in dialing in on the perfect fit.

The Best Women’s Trail Running Shoes of 2023

Best Overall Women's Trail Running Shoe

Salomon Sense Ride 5


  • Weight (per pair) 17.4 oz.
  • Drop 8.3 mm (29.6/21.3 mm)
  • Upper material Textile/synthetic
  • Best for Long or short runs on mixed-terrain or urban trails
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Highly breathable
  • Single system lacing
  • Great traction for various terrain
  • Excellent support


  • Rigid
  • No rock guard
  • Snug fit
Best Budget Women's Trail Running Shoe

Merrell Trail Glove 7


  • Weight (per pair) 14.46 oz.
  • Drop Zero
  • Upper material 100% recycled breathable mesh
  • Best for Runners who want an affordable, bare-minimum shoe
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Affordable price
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Keeps feet in a natural gait
  • Barely-there feel


  • Not ideal for rugged terrain
  • Fits narrow
Runner-Up Best Women's Trail Running Shoe

Saucony Peregrine 13


  • Weight (per pair) 16.2 oz.
  • Drop 4 mm (28/24 mm)
  • Upper material Mesh
  • Best for Anyone who wants a do-it-all shoe
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Broad range of sizes, including wide options
  • Rock plate
  • Quick drying
  • Fantastic traction


  • Considerably high arch support
Best Wide Toebox Women's Trail Running Shoe

Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3


  • Weight (per pair) 16.06 oz.
  • Drop 5 mm (35/30 mm)
  • Upper material Recycled mesh
  • Best for Trail running, hiking
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Great for those who prefer wide toe box
  • Outstanding cushioning
  • Lightweight
  • Gaiter compatible
  • Incredible traction


  • Tight around the ankle
  • Breaking in may be required
  • Stiff heel
  • Felt clunky
Most Comfortable Women's Trail Running Shoe

Hoka Speedgoat 5


  • Weight (per pair) 17 oz.
  • Drop 4 mm (31/27 mm)
  • Upper material Recycled engineered mesh
  • Best for Regular runs, trail races, and dry technical scrambles
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Offers wide sizes
  • Highly cushioned for comfort
  • Technical shoe
  • Great at draining water
  • Good support


  • Short, uncomfortable tongue
  • Not great in both wet and technical terrain
Best Women's Trail Running Shoe for Mud

La Sportiva Kaptiva


  • Weight (per pair) 18 oz.
  • Drop 6 mm
  • Upper material Sock-like compression, thermo-adhesive overlays
  • Best for Long-distance trail races
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Rock plate
  • Moderate cushioning and sock-like compression for extended distances
  • Knit wrap-around tongue for seamless comfort
  • Pronounced 3.5-4.5 mm lugs for stellar grip


  • Not ideal on gravel or small pebbles
  • Run narrow
Best of the Rest

Altra Lone Peak 7


  • Weight (per pair) 18.4 oz.
  • Drop Zero
  • Upper material Quick-Dry Air Mesh
  • Best for Off-trail, Wide feet
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • StoneGuard rock plates
  • Quick drying
  • Outstanding grip for slushy, muddy trails


  • Could be too wide for some zero-drop enthusiasts
  • Not great for long distances on pavement

Brooks Caldera 6


  • Weight (per pair) 19.6 oz.
  • Drop 6 mm (26/20 mm)
  • Upper material Synthetic mesh
  • Best for Runners who want maximum cushion and comfort
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Incredibly comfortable
  • Outstanding cushion
  • Lace keepers


  • Heavy

Salomon Pulsar Trail


  • Weight (per pair) 17.2 oz.
  • Drop 6 mm (26.6/32.6 mm)
  • Upper material Textile/synthetic
  • Best for Trail running on just about anything
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Single pull laces for easy tie
  • Rock plate


  • Feels a touch too narrow for some
  • No heel loop

Altra Timp 4


  • Weight (per pair) 18.4 oz.
  • Drop Zero
  • Upper material Engineered mesh
  • Best for All-day runs on and off trail
The Best Trail Running Shoes for Women in 2023


  • Remarkable comfort
  • Multidirectional lug pattern
  • Great breathability
  • Wide toe box


  • Pricey
  • No rock plate
  • Some testers found they run small
  • Not great for narrow feet

Women’s Trail Running Shoes Comparison Chart

Trail Running ShoePriceWeight (Per Pair)DropUpper Material
Salomon Sense Ride 5$14017.4 oz.8.3 mm (29.6/21.3 mm)Textile/synthetic
Merrell Trail Glove 7$11014.46 oz.Zero100% recycled breathable mesh
Saucony Peregrine 13$14016.2 oz.4 mm (28/24 mm)Mesh
Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3$15016.06 oz.5 mm (35/30 mm)Recycled mesh
Hoka Speedgoat 5$15517 oz.4 mm (31/27 mm)Recycled engineered mesh
La Sportiva Kaptiva$16518 oz.6 mmSock-like compression,
thermo-adhesive overlays
Altra Lone Peak 7$15518.4 oz.ZeroQuick-Dry Air Mesh
Brooks Caldera 6$15019.6 oz.6 mm (26/20 mm)Synthetic mesh
Salomon Pulsar Trail$14017.2 oz.6 mm (26.6/32.6 mm)Textile/synthetic
Altra Timp 4$16018.4 ozZeroEngineered mesh
Women's Trail Running Shoes
Each of the shoes in this guide were thoroughly tested by our running experts; (photo/Rebecca Ross)

Why You Should Trust Us

Athletes from GearJunkie have accumulated years of experience in outdoor running, casual running, marathons, and ultramarathons. They combine their years of experience and education to provide advice on all running-related gear.

While testing trail running shoes, we paid careful attention to comfort, stability, outsole traction and grip, and long-term durability. After putting each model on this list through the wringer over rough terrain, we would feel comfortable recommending these shoes for the toughest of mountain pursuits and ultra-long distance races. 

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Trail Running Shoe

Knowing which shoe is the right one for you can be daunting. That is why we are demystifying the shoe selection process by providing you with useful tips to find the shoe that best meets your running needs. 

This article focuses on the best women’s trail running shoes. In separate articles, we have also outlined the best women’s road running shoes and the best winter running shoes.

Women's Trail Running Shoes
With so many models on the market, try and think about what you specifically need for your runs before purchasing any trail running shoe; (photo/Rebecca Ross)

Where You Run Matters

There’s a lot to consider with running shoes, and where you plan on running matters. Do you plan on running on pavement? Or do you anticipate hitting the trails? Will the trails be all dirt or have a mixture of gravel? Your options will often consist of either a road or trail running shoe.

Road running shoes are designed for compact, smooth, and even surfaces. These shoes will have minimal features that make them lightweight and flexible with smooth soles. Keep in mind that these shoes may not be great for rocky, gravel, or uneven terrain.

Trail running shoes are for runners who want to deviate from the well-groomed paths and venture off-road. In order to do this, trail running shoes are made with deep lugs and traction patterns that can manage anything the environment may have in its way, including roots, boulders, stumps, and more. Trail running shoes may, though not always, have plates and stiffer midsoles in addition to offering support and protecting your feet from jagged rocks and sharp objects.

Identify Your Running Gait

The term “pronation” refers to the way your foot rolls, which has an effect on your joints. Do you have an inward or outward foot roll? Knowing this will be helpful for you to decide what kind of assistance your running requires.

An easy way to identify your running gait is to examine the soles of your existing shoes and determine where they typically wear out. Or visit a foot expert to determine your type of pronation.

  • Basic, or neutral, pronation is different for everyone, but ultimately a neutral pronation is when your foot naturally rolls slightly inward to distribute the body’s impact upon landing.
  • Overpronation is when your foot rolls too far inward, which means your shoes will show signs of wear on the insides of them.
  • Supination, or underpronation is when your feet roll outward, resulting in the outer part of the heel striking the ground first, which will show signs of wear on the outermost edges.
Women's Trail Running Shoes
It’s important to identify your gait while you run to help you narrow in on the best trail running shoes for your needs; (photo/Rebecca Ross)

Stack and Heel-to-Toe Drop 

Unless you’re running barefoot, every shoe has a stack. Measured in millimeters, the stack refers to how high the insole sits off the ground. Shoes with more cushion inherently have a higher stack. Furthermore, most shoes have a drop in stack height from the heel to the toe.

If you’re new to running, experts recommend a lower heel stack because it builds a wider range of motion and strength, which makes you a healthier runner.

Another factor to consider is the heel-to-toe drop, also known as the “drop,” measured in millimeters. A shoe’s drop is the difference in cushion height between the heel and the toe. If a shoe has a drop of 10 millimeters, it means the heel will be 10 millimeters higher than the toe.

Those who run on the balls of their feet should choose a zero drop like that found on the Altra Lone Peak 7, Merrell Trail Glove 7, or Altra Timp 4. Additionally, those who run heel-to-toe (heel strikers) should aim for a shoe with a larger drop, such as the Salomon Sense Ride 5, which has an 8.3 mm drop for optimal joint support.


A shoe’s cushion is often made from EVA or polyurethane to help absorb the repetitive impact against hard surfaces. With increased cushioning, it becomes more impact-absorbing, which is advantageous for extended runs. However, the weight of the shoe will increase with the amount of cushioning.

How much cushion you need for running depends on what feels right for you and whether you require something lightweight with minimal cushioning for a natural feel, like with the Merrell Trail Glove 7. Alternatively, you can choose from the Brooks Caldera 6, or the Hoka Speedgoat 5 if you want lots of cushioning for extra comfort.

Women's Trail Running Shoes
The Merrell Trail Glove 7 offers minimal cushion, but has a natural feel; (photo/Rebecca Ross)


For runners, particularly those with flat feet or overpronation, shoe stability is intended to offer additional support in the midsole or arch to limit the foot from rolling inward too far. Ideal shoe support is designed to stabilize your foot and keep it in a more neutral position.

When considering the right stability for your needs, evaluate whether you require additional structure to compensate for excessive inward rolling. Also, keep in mind that many runners feel a decrease in stability when running in shoes with a greater stack height. The more material between your feet and the trail, the harder it is to feel and react to uneven surfaces, loose rocks, and slippery gravel.

Rock Plate

Some running shoes are equipped with rock plates or a built-in nylon shank. When tackling mountain slopes, these built-in structures are intended to shield the bottom of your feet from soreness and bruising. While many of the shoes on our list have rock guards, one to consider is the La Sportiva Kaptiva, which has 1.5 mm rock guards in the forefoot and heels. Additional options are the Salomon Pulsar Trail and the Saucony Peregrine 13

Rock plates, however, are unnecessary when running on flat surfaces because they contribute extra weight. Additionally, some shoes, like the Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, have sufficient cushioning and do not require the addition of rock plates.


Those who are aiming to run on trails will often want a shoe with maximum flexibility in order to mold to the varying surface. Think tree stumps, roots, rocks, and more, you will want a shoe that can adapt to the trail while still preventing ankle injuries.

Women's Trail Running Shoes
Flexibility is an important factor to consider when making the transition from road to trail running; (photo/Rebecca Ross)


One of the features we look for in running shoes is breathability. In general, thin, porous uppers let cool air in while enabling your body heat to escape, which is ideal for keeping your feet at a comfortable temperature. Keep in mind that breathable uppers won’t fend off the grime or cold.

We recommend the Merrell Trail Glove 7 and the Salomon Sense Ride 5, as both have excellent ventilation.


Waterproof membranes are best when running in cold, wet, or snowy conditions. Do keep in mind that they work just as well to keep moisture out as they do to keep moisture in.

Oftentimes, we tend to avoid waterproof membranes unless running in the aforementioned circumstances for extended periods of time, because they tend to trap heat, leaving feet feeling damp, clammy, or wet, which can lead to friction blisters.

Our pick for such conditions, when we know terrain or weather necessitates water resistance, are the Hoka Speedgoat 5 or the Altra Lone Peak 7, which are rated highly in our opinion for muddy trails.

Women's Trail Running Shoes
Water-resistant trail running shoes are helpful while charging over wet, sludgy trails; (photo/Rebecca Ross)


Running shoe materials can impact the shoe’s performance, including weight, breathability, water resistance, and durability. 

Most shoes are made with a synthetic upper mesh. And depending on how intricately constructed they are, they can offer unique features, better breathability, and more durability in areas that need them the most.

Although lightweight running shoes made of fewer materials will weigh less, more expensive materials, such as carbon, rubber, or rock plates, are more likely to raise the price of the shoes. These lightweight running shoes also may not last as long as those with protective overlays because they offer less protection. 

Lugs and Traction

When it comes to how much grip you want, you’ll need to consider where you’ll be running and in what conditions. Outsoles with a lot of grip are great for varying terrain or deep mud, and will have aggressive-looking deep lugs that allow for more purchase on the ground without slipping. 

On the other hand, if you are sticking to the pavement or compact dirt, lugs that are 5mm–7mm in height can be uncomfortable and unnecessary. Additionally, pebbles will frequently get stuck in the lugs if you run on gravel roads. As a result, shallower lugs are what you need.

Lug patterns also make a difference. Many shoes make it a point to have lugs that are multi-directionally patterned from heel to toe so that you can stop quicker and on a dime. The shoe with the best traction on our list, and for good reason, is the Hoka Speedgoat 5, designed for slick, muddy conditions with its impressive 5mm Vibram Traction lugs to grip soft, deep dirt.

Another recommendation is the Altra Timp 4, which features multidirectional lugs for quick turns on narrow single track that will keep you on your feet.

Women's Trail Running Shoes
Solid traction is important for confidence on loose terrain; (photo/Rebecca Ross)


Running shoes should be light in weight while still providing adequate protection for the running style you prefer. Those looking for a pair of ultradistance running shoes shouldn’t choose anything that will make them feel weighed down.

Anything that weighs more than 12 ounces is generally regarded as heavy. If you want to be considered “lightweight,” you should strive for between 6.5 and 12 ounces. The lightest shoe on the list is the Merrell Trail Glove 7, weighing 14.4 ounces, which doesn’t qualify as incredibly lightweight, but they do offer durability to tackle moderate trails.

At the heavier end of the spectrum would be the Brooks Caldera 6, weighing 19.6 ounces. While they aren’t light, they are meant to handle rugged terrain with ease.


Which Trail Running Shoes Should I Buy?

With so many options to choose from, it can be challenging to choose the right trail shoes. Here are three things to consider as you shop:

  1. Set realistic running goals. If you dream of running a 100-miler one day but realistically will use the shoes for 5-mile training loops around your local park, buy shoes for the latter use first.
  2. Consider shoe width. For folks with wide feet, or those running very long distances, a wide forefoot can be a bonus that lets toes splay. The downside is that wider shoes are less precise, can be a little more clumsy, and won’t fit well on people with narrow feet.
  3. Test out the tongue. Does it fit comfortably? Will it keep rocks out of your shoe?

For more help choosing, check out our complete buyer’s guide to choosing a trail running shoe.

How Should Trail Running Shoes Fit?

Stack and Drop

Unless you’re running barefoot, every shoe has a stack. Measured in millimeters, the stack refers to how high the insole sits off the ground. Shoes with more cushion inherently have a higher stack. Furthermore, most shoes have a “drop” in stack height from the heel to the toe.

If you’re new to running, experts recommend a lower heel drop; it builds a wider range of motion and strength, which makes you a healthier runner.


Stepping into a high-cushion shoe can feel like walking on a cloud. Those running longer distances (or who supinate) will prefer more cushion to damp the repetitive pounding and provide support. But it can become a penalty. Extra foam adds extra weight.

So, is more cushion better? Not always. It’s about finding the right balance between speed and comfort. If you’re aiming for a new PR, look for a light, stiffer shoe with a harder cushion and minimal lug friction.


Flexibility is your friend on the trails. You need variability to match the variable terrain. Trail runners will prefer a shoe with a firm outsole and less cushion but a firm toebox to push off of. Flexibility and torsion can help the foot adapt to the trail and prevent injuries.

How Long Do Running Shoes Last?

The life of a shoe depends on a variety of factors, including running style, weight, and how often they’re used. But in general, 300 to 500 miles is a good rule of thumb.

So if you run 10 miles per week, your shoes could last 8 months to a year. If you’re logging 20 miles per week, plan on replacing your running shoes every 4 to 6 months.

And if you see excessive wear patterns, holes, or tears — or if you notice a decrease in footbed comfort — it’s probably time to grab a new pair of sneakers.

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