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The Trail Running Shoes We’re Most Excited to Try in 2023

High-end materials and designs go mainstream, delivering smooth-riding, versatile rides for every runner

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With the new year just around the corner, we’ve had the chance to preview some of the models running shoe brands are rolling out in 2023. Based on the sneak peeks, the coming year promises to bring a pack of smooth-rolling shoes that combine the latest materials and designs to deliver versatile, comfortable, and speedy rides for every runner’s needs and preferences. Here are a few models that we’re most excited about training and racing in.

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Speedland GS:TAM ($275)

Speedland GS:TAM running shoe 2023
(Photo: 101 Degrees West)

Foot-Coddler Supreme

The first Speedlands rewrote the rules on using high-end materials and components in a shoe, with a $375 price tag to prove it. But the ride was so exceptional that the brand sold out of the initial limited run and only has a few sizes left of their second, similar model. So, while they plan to make more of the new GS:TAM version, you’d better act quickly if you want a pair, especially as they’ve dropped the price a hundred dollars while upgrading the cushioning and keeping most of the features.

As in the original model, the upper’s two, two-way BOA dials make it super easy to lock down a perfect fit (although the dials are now plastic instead of Anodized aluminum). And the shoe retains the unsurpassed underfoot sensation of stepping directly onto a thick slab of a soft, bouncy PEBAX-based foam with no insole in the way. However, the Carbitex plate beneath that removable top layer is now optional and will cost you another $35 for the additional stability and snap it provides. The overall stack height also went up four millimeters in the heel and two millimeters in the forefoot (to 37-30mm), yet the weight remained essentially the same. On a quick preview run at The Running Event in early December, I found the ride comfortable, smooth, and connected, without the close-to-the-ground edge of the first Speedland, but not at all top-heavy or squishy. I didn’t want to give them back after my few strides in them and can’t wait to put long miles on a pair.

Launches in March

Brooks Catamount 2 ($170)

Brooks Catamount 2
(Photo: 101 Degrees West)

Agile Versatility

I’m anxious to run in the new Catamount, mostly so I can try out its unique propulsion plate. Brooks calls it the “Sky Vault” and promises it will help me fly over hills as well as roll smoothly over a variety of terrains. It’s shaped like some kind of sea creature, with two tentacles extending to the back and three reaching out front, and is made of flexible, rebounding Pebax, a material often used for track spike plates. This magic plate, according to product line manager Nick Colton, “allows you to be more agile and precise on trails, able to jump over rocks and boulders, and have more propulsion and efficiency uphill.” I want some of that.

Brooks Sky Vault plate
(Photo: Melanie Mitchell)

This plate is embedded into a slab of Brooks’ bouncy, nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole foam, which, Colton says, is tuned to be softer and more flexible than in the original version (which I found quite stiff). The softer ride should deliver both more cushioning for long miles and more adaptability over rocks and rough terrain. It still looks low and resilient enough, however, to provide a stable ground feel and a fast, nimble ride. I imagine it will, like its predecessor, excel at any distance and over most any terrain, from road to technical single-track.

Launches in February

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trail

New Balance FC SC Trail running shoe 2023
(Photo: 101 Degrees West)

Techy Trail Dancer

New Balance’s SuperComp line, which combines curved carbon plates with high-rebound foams and unique midsole geometry, already has a speedy, low, fast road racer, an elite marathon supershoe, and an ultra-cushioned, trampoline-like trainer. Come summer it will also include a light (9.5 ounces men’s, 7.5 ounces women’s), low (31mm heel, 21mm forefoot) trail runner. Several brands have successfully integrated carbon plates into their trail lines—and some have tried and been not quite as successful. I’m looking forward to seeing how well the designers adapted New Balance’s tech to handle iffy terrain.

First off, says Paul Zelinski, senior product line manager, the foam beneath the plate is firmer, “so they don’t feel super squirrelly—you’re not mushing or flattening out.” Above the plate, high-energy rebound FuelCell foam provides soft touchdowns and explosive push-offs. The plate itself is split in the forefoot to allow horizontal flexibility, but the prong under the medial side is wider to provide snap during big toe propulsion. None of these specific strategies are completely new, but given the smooth ride of other FuelCell models, I’m betting New Balance has combined them into a unique shoe that dances over the trail.

Launches in August or September