After a long day stuck in the office or boardroom, sometimes pounding pavement just doesn’t cut it. Maybe you’ve been craving a change in scenery — have you seen the backcountry in the spring and fall? Regardless of your motivation to trade pavement for dirt, the right shoes make the difference between enjoying the boulder field at 10,000 feet and calling it a day at the first stream crossing. Whether you’re training for the Sky Running Race of Champions or just looking to trade your tried and true 5k evening run in for some time on gravel and dirt, GP’s testers have a shoe for every off-road run.
ONE STRIDE AT A TIME: Best Running Shoes of 2013 | Best Winter Running Shoes | Running Jackets for Any Weather
Altra Lone Peak 1.5
Best All-Day Shoe: We had a chance to sit down with Altra’s founder, Golden Harper, earlier this year to take a look at their origins and to get a sneak peak at some of their award-winning trail line. The updated Lone Peak 1.5s were designed around the storied Wasatch 100 endurance race. With beefy soles, excellent breathability, and a weight of under 10 ounces, this is the trail shoe for all day adventures.
Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra
Best Race-Day Shoe: Designed in collaboration with world champion ultra runner Kilian Jornet, this update to Salomon’s popular Sense shoe features additional cushioning and deeper lugs. While these changes add an ounce of weight, the Sense Ultra still only comes in at 7.4 ounces, even with a durable 13-millimeter heel. At $180, they’re a little pricier than other options, but come race day, these sturdy, nimble shoes will leave your opponents seeing red.
Brooks Cascadia 8
Best Shoe For Heel Strikers: The eighth edition of the Cascadia holds up Brooks’s strong trail tradition. A beefed-up BioMoGo DNA foam protects your feet from even the sharpest boulder hopping trails. The upper design is easy on the eyes, but more importantly, it keeps your feet locked in place — especially important on slick Pacific Coast or New England Trails. This is the comfort shoe your feet have been asking for.
La Sportiva Helios
Best Short-Distance Shoe: Don’t mistake the Helios for a lightweight, even if it does come in at just over 8.1 ounces. This hard charger is perfect for everything from short tempo runs to full-blown trail half-marathons. The toe and heel caps protect you on the rough trails, and the over-lugged sole sticks to everything. Go ahead and turn the speed up to eleven.
Merrell Barefoot Trail Run Ascend Glove
Best Minimalist Trail Shoe: If you’re looking for more connection to the trail, the Ascend Glove from Merrell provides the perfect minimalist platform with zero drop and only 6mm of cushioning. Ventilated and Gore-Tex-lined options are ready for any conditions (may we suggest a good runnning jacket if you’re planning on battling some harsh weather?). With a Vibram outsole and Merrell’s TrailProtect padding at critical points, the Ascend will be ready to go long after your feet are screaming for a break.