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With such a wide range of trail running shoes to choose from, choosing a selection for the gifting season was a challenge. But, we rallied and narrowed down a selection of our favorites that would bring a smile to the face of any trail runner on their next off-road adventure.
Best Gifts: Trail Running Shoes 2022
Altra Mont Blanc BOA Edition | $210
Your favorite long-distance trail runner will geek out over the twin BOA dials on this premium trail shoe. Each dial tightens a different set of laces, letting you fine-tune the tension to your fit preference. Underfoot, Altra’s lightest nitrogen-infused foam sinks in and contours around your foot before firming up and bouncing back, providing a unique combination of cushion, ground feel, and lively responsiveness. The foot-shaped forefoot allows your toes to spread out for a naturally-stable stance enhanced by unobtrusive guide rails on both sides of the arch, while the thin, light sole with strategically-placed lugs delivers a sure-footed grip.
Brooks Caldera 6 | $150
With a generous amount of cushioning from soft, lightweight, slightly-bouncy DNA Loft v3—a combination of EVA, rubber, air, and nitrogen—the Caldera is meant for comfort over speed. We love it for runs when we just want to zone out. Its wide base flares out slightly from the top of the midsole, where it surrounds the foot like a bucket seat. A combination of a gusseted tongue and lacing eyelets that wrap all the way down to the midsole lock the foot down securely and comfortably. The result is a forgiving shoe that enables you to roll over rocky, varied terrain without having to focus too hard on foot placement.
Reebok Floatride Energy 4 Adventure | $120
Check out this lightweight, low-profile, flexible shoe if the runner on your list does most miles on gravel roads or smooth dirt trails. At the shoe’s core is Reebok’s Floatride Energy foam—a TPE-based blend delivering a soft-and-bouncy ride. On the bottom, a nearly full-coverage, grippy-rubber outsole echoes gravel bike tire tread, with smaller, tightly-spaced lugs in the center for a smooth roll on firm sections, and larger—but still shallow—lugs on the perimeter for digging in when needed. On top, the upper is made of a flexible and airy, yet rugged, ripstop mesh made of 100 percent recycled plastic.
Hoka Tecton X | $200
The new Hoka Tecton X is a rare carbon-plated shoe that’s not just for fast runners with efficient strides, but provides a peppy ride for all abilities. Designers ditched the standard single carbon plate in favor of two parallel ones. These plates move independently, producing a more forgiving, flexible ride. Surrounding the plates is a dual-density midsole: Hoka’s most responsive, energetic EVA on bottom, topped with a layer of softer foam directly underfoot. Where the rubber meets the road, tightly spaced four-millimeter lugs deliver a grippy yet sensitive ride on everything from gravel roads to dusty, winding singletrack.
Saucony Peregrine 12 | $130
Gift this shoe to the runner who likes a natural, close-to-the-ground feel that allows for quick, nimble feet over any terrain. A new rock plate provides more flexible protection and an airy upper better releases moisture while delivering a strong foothold that doesn’t restrict foot motion. A thin, flexible saddle and soft, gusseted tongue hugs the midfoot, while the toe box is wide and free. The aggressive five-millimeter lugs and sticky rubber sole inspired confident strides. Any runner who loves to dance over the trail will love this award-winning off-road speedster.
Merrel MTL Long Sky 2 | $140
The MTL Long Sky 2 won our testers’ hearts not because of one feature that stood out, but by having each element come together seamlessly to deliver protection and cushioning without removing the nimble feel of dancing over the trail. The toothy outsole provides ample traction on wet and dry trails, gripping strongly with widely-spaced, five-millimeter-deep, chevron-shaped lugs. The midsole delivers a firm, connected ride that is neither harsh nor squishy, and the upper wraps securely over the booty-style gusseted tongue with an airy forefoot allowing plenty of room for the toes. In sum: durable, versatile, and reliable.
Hoka Mafate Speed 4 | $185
Imagine a trail shoe with a tank’s toughness, a four-wheeler’s grip, and a Ferrari’s engine, and you’ve got a good picture of the Hoka Mafate Speed 4. Underfoot, the new dual-density EVA foam midsole has a soft layer on top of a firmer one to create a balance between a cushioned and responsive ride. But the shoe’s strongest attribute is its ground-biting traction: The sole employs multi-directional, textured, five-millimeter lugs separated by flex grooves to clench into tricky terrain, whether soft, loose, or rocky. Testers also raved about the new single-layer woven jacquard mesh upper, which provides a flexible, slightly stretchy hug.
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 8 | $140
The agile fit and ride make the Terra Kiger 8 stand out for runners looking to maneuver adeptly on rugged footing. Soft landings are delivered by an ample layer of Nike’s soft-and-slightly-bouncy React midsole foam under the heel. The low, 24-millimeter forefoot employs a Zoom Air unit that combines pressurized air and tightly stretched fibers to produce bouncy, powerful push-offs. Flexible, segmented rock plates between the midsole and outsole protect both heel and forefoot while high-abrasion rubber holds onto a variety of trails and conditions. The snug, breathable mesh upper is fully lined to block out excessive dirt and pebble.
Asics Fuji Lite 3 | $120
Asics Fuji Lite 3 will delight your off-road speedster. The low height and light weight give it a nimble, quick-footed quality that begs for fast, fun trail running while still providing comfort at slower paces. Large, multi-directional, five-millimeter-deep lugs dig in for off-road confidence, while their flat top surfaces and tight spacing let the shoes also transition smoothly to roads. The engineered mesh upper provides inadequate lockdown to anchor the foot when bombing down steep, technical terrain, but is comfortable and secure for easy to moderate trails. With its versatility and vivacity, the shoe is a bargain.