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The Best Women’s Trail Running Shoes for 2021

Best Women’s Trail Running Shoes Reviews

1. Merrell Glove 4 Women’s Trail Running Shoes

The first shoe on our list is a lightweight trail runner that’s really comfortable and stylish enough for everyday wear. Merrell’s Glove 4 looks very similar to your average sneaker but has brighter color options and a sleek mesh upper. It’s probably too minimalist for long-distance runners or those with joint problems though.

The Vibram soles on the Glove 4 provide incredible traction that’s perfect for steep hills and wet trails. It’s also flexible enough to prevent you from getting bogged down. One of its standout features is the Trail Protect Pad, which distributes pressure throughout your forefoot to protect against sharp rocks.

The mesh uppers on the Glove 4, while great for breathability and comfort, aren’t as durable as many of its competitors. They’ll probably wear out before the sole of the shoe, especially if you’re running on rough trails.

They’re also not a great choice for runners with ankle issues as the low-cut uppers don’t provide a lot of rotational support.

The Glove 4 are undoubtedly the best women’s trail running shoes for short to medium distance runners who want a stylish shoe with great traction and good support.

2. Saucony Cohesion 10 Women’s Running Shoe

The Cohesion 10 might be one of the best bargains in the women’s running shoe market; it’s a simple design, with a moderate amount of cushioning for neutral runners, along with relatively good durability, making it one of the best women’s trail running shoes for budget-minded individuals.

A 12mm drop between the heel and toe puts these as some of the best shoes for beginners that are heel striking and need a lot of cushioning. They’ll feel clunky for those accustomed to a more minimalist shoe, though. They also lack arch support, making them a poor choice for runners with flat feet.

These shoes have decent traction on dry pavement, but if you live in a wet climate, you’ll definitely need to be more cautious with your stride to prevent a fall.

For their price point, the Saucony is relatively durable, especially if you’re more of a casual runner. The company didn’t use their best materials in the Cohesion 10, and you’ll probably need to upgrade if you get serious enough about the sport to wear them out.

If you’re just getting into running, you will appreciate this workhorse of a shoe, especially since it won’t break the bank getting a new pair every few hundred miles. They’re also comfortable and casual enough for everyday wear, but they have a limited lifespan and won’t last for long if you plan a frequent use.

3. Salomon Speedcross 4 Women’s Trail Running Shoes

Those wanting a top-notch trail runner need look no further than the Speedcross 4 from Salomon. They are a go anywhere, do anything pair of shoes with a focus on traction and durability.  

The first thing you’ll notice is that they have some astoundingly thick lugs, a big advantage on muddy trails. They’re actually so big as to be uncomfortable for road use, where they easily wreak havoc on stability and act as tiny pressure points all along the bottom of your foot.

Like many Salomon running shoes, the Speedcross 4 come with the patented Quicklace system – a nylon cord that replaces the laces and tightens by sliding a buckle down the cord. The downside to the system is that it tightens the laces uniformly, so you can’t do custom lacing to prevent blisters or alleviate foot pain. Additionally, if the cord breaks, there’s no way to do a field repair on the trail.

The uppers are warm and excel at keeping mud and moisture out, but they also do a pretty good job of trapping in sweat on hot summer days. These trail runners are best suited for early and late seasons runs where temps are lower.

Price-conscious runners also might be put off by the Speedcross’s higher price, but you get what you pay for in terms of features and durability.

4. ASICS Gel-Kahana 8 Women’s Trail Runner

Just take a look at the Gel-Kahana 8 to know you’re buying comfort. The thick heel cushion is a sigh of relief for heel strikers feeling shut out by the minimalist designs seen on so many trail runners.

They’re especially nice for overpronators that need extra stability, something this shoe provides in spades with firm arch support.

The uppers are just as cozy, with a glove-like fit and tight mesh overlay to create a barrier against mud and moisture. They’re not too technical looking and would make a great gym shoe or everyday walker.

Unfortunately, this a road-only shoe, which is a real disappointment for something marketed as a trail runner. The tread is simply not aggressive enough for the trail, and it doesn’t even perform that well in wet conditions. It might be adequate if you only run flat and dry routes, but otherwise, stick to the pavement.

The Gel-Kahana’s outsoles are not very durable, having a tendency to start peeling off after a hundred miles or so. This is especially problematic for trail runs, where sharp rocks obliterate weak soles.

These function well as a casual running shoe, given that they’re designed for comfort and not traction or durability.

5. ASICS GEL-Venture 5 Women’s Running Shoe

The term quality budget trail running shoe is almost an oxymoron. If you want traction, stability, and durability, it’s almost always going to cost you. That’s what makes the Gel-Venture 5 so special, for half or even a third of the price of most trail runners, you can have a rock-solid shoe that functions well on easy to moderate trails.

The heel collar and the sides of the Venture have great stiffness – exactly what you should look for in a trail runner. With a 10mm drop, there’s sufficient cushion beneath the heel to protect against rocks and other trail obstructions.

Take a look at the bottom of these shoes, and it’s pretty clear they’re not for steep and deep trails though; the lugs are too short and not particularly aggressive. That only makes the shoe more versatile though, functioning well for road running, or as a cycling shoe, or just every day wear.

These are some of the best budget trail running shoes for women you can buy, and as long as you don’t take them through too nasty of terrain (slick rock, mud, steep downhills), you’ll be quite satisfied.

6. Salomon X-Mission 3 Women’s Trail Running Shoes

The second entry from Salomon is a slightly more affordable version of the Speedcross 4, but with many of the same great features.

The lugs on the X-Mission 3 are a little shorter, but still aggressively shaped, giving good performance on the trail, but not being so long as to be uncomfortable on the pavement.

These shoes also come with a thick cap over the toes, providing superior protection should your stride be interrupted by a rock or tree root. They also come with the patented Quicklace system seen on the Speedcross, making the adjustment a literal cinch.

With a drop of 10mm and an ample amount of cushion in the midsole, they are ideal for heel strike runners. At 18 ounces, they’re not exactly heavy, but more minimalist runners might find that the extra cushioning and weight bogs them down.

The uppers are incredibly breathable, with large stretch mesh panels throughout, which are incredibly helpful in stopping blister formation.

If you are hitting the pavement and the trail with equal frequency and want a shoe with great protection, the X-Mission 3 might be right for you.

7. Saucony Peregrine Women’s Trail Running Shoe

The Peregrine is a step up from the Cohesion, with a more aggressive tread intended for trail running and a stiffer sole to protect against sharp objects.

Like the Cohesion, though, these are incredibly comfortable, so much so that they could easily become your everyday shoes. They’re a great summer running shoe, with excellent ventilation and moisture control.

However, the Peregrine claims to be a trail running shoe, but its lackluster tread limits its functionality for off-pavement use. There’s also no rock plate between the outsole and midsole, meaning your feet are going to feel every large pebble on the trail.

The lack of a plate gives them more flexibility, though, and make them considerably more comfortable. It also cuts down on weight ever so slightly, which could be an advantage for runners intending to use them on soft, unobstructed trails.

It won’t hurt your wallet to give the Peregrines a try but know that they’re not as durable as some of the more expensive running shoes, and their designation as a trail runner is only appropriate if you’re hitting easier routes.

8. Topo Athletic Ultraventure Trail Running Shoe

Topo Athletic isn’t as big of a name in the running world as some of the other manufacturers on this list, but they’ve carved out a niche for themselves by providing the most natural running experience possible. The design for the Ultraventure was actually conceived of by looking at the needs of ultra-marathoners and elite trail runners.

Start with the 5mm drop on the Ultraventures; it’s fast, it’s flexible, and it’s going to be uncomfortable for runners that aren’t used to a minimalist shoe. You need to have a good technique to use these, and if you don’t, they’ll help you learn fast.

The Topo’s Vibram XS outsole is also built with an aggressive tread pattern that bites into any trail surface and is combined with a three-piece midsole to provide a good buffer against rough terrain. Though suitable for neutral runners, pronators will be satisfied with their stability control.

The uppers on the Ultraventure are fairly breathable, providing enough ventilation for most climates, though they might feel a little stuffy in very humid areas.

These trail runners are a solid choice for runners ready to go the distance with a relatively lightweight and low-drop shoe. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other shoes on this list, so be sure it’s what you want before buying.

9. Vasque Women’s Vertical Velocity Running Shoes

This trail runner from Vasque is one of the more technical options and a great choice if you’re looking for a minimalist shoe. The Vertical Velocity is designed to fall somewhere between a trail runner and an approach shoe; they’re meant to be comfortable and supportive, but won’t work for pounding the pavement several times per week.

Starting at the base, the Vertical Velocities come with an incredibly grippy Vibram outsole that keeps a tight hold, even on slippery rock-strewn trails. To protect your feet from any sharp obstacles, there’s a nylon rock plate and a moderately-cushioned EVA midsole. With a 4mm heel to toe drop though, there’s not enough cushion for half marathons or greater distances.

The insoles have adequate support for those with lower arches and a high-rebound footbed, which helps to keep momentum throughout the stride.

A stretch mesh tongue and airy upper make this one of the more comfortable trail runners for hot climates. They also do an excellent job of forming to your feet, feeling more like a sock than a running shoe.

This is a great pair of shoes to be wearing on technical trails where mud, sharp rocks, and steep inclines are prevalent. They’re quite grippy and provide excellent support, but their lack of cushioning is a non-starter for trail runners covering large distances.

10. HOKA ONE ONE Women’s Challenger ATR 4

HOKA One One has been a leader in the maximalist shoe market for several years now, bucking the minimalist trends that come and go every few years. They’re able to do this because they make one of the most comfortable running shoes out there, and the Challenger ATR 4 is no exception to that legacy.

The Challenger ATR 4 is primarily a road running shoe, but with enough traction and stability for occasional trail running. It’s built with plenty of cushion in the midsole (though slightly less than previous Challenger models) and a tight heel collar to hold your foot securely.

It’s got 5mm heel to toe drop, which is on the higher end for minimalist shoes but still enough for heel striking runners.

With such a highly cushioned design, you’d assume that the Challenger ATR 4 would look like some sort of balloon shoe, but they’re actually quite fashionable and a great option for everyday wear.

Don’t count on the Challenger’s tread lasting for hundreds of miles, though; some users have noticed it delaminated after a few months of use.

The Challenger lacks durability, and runners accustomed to a less cushioned shoe will find them slow, but if cushioning and comfort are your top priorities, they are an excellent choice.