Best Summer Trail Running Shoes Reviewed (2022)
It almost goes without saying that summer is all about enjoying a lighter, more flexible shoe – whether running or hiking. After all, even the wettest British summer encourages runners to go a little further and a little faster.
When we test summer shoes, we always look at breathability, flexibility, and of course, that lighter weight – but not at the expense of support, stability, and protection. Rocks and roots don’t disappear in the summer. Grip may be less of an issue, but of course, unless you raced in 1976 during the long, hot summer, there will be quite a bit of mud and water that you will have to deal with.
How to care for your outdoor shoes
What to Look for in Summer Trail Running Shoes
Carbon: For many of us, summer is all about running a little faster and there’s no doubt that carbon gives riders more response on the harder, smoother trails this season offers. Some will run faster, while others will benefit from reduced carbon impact. Yes, there is a cost, but it is well worth the investment.
Breathability: In the same way that you look for fabrics that breathe in t-shirts, look for materials that allow air and water vapor to escape from inside the shoe, while allowing cooler air from outside to enter.
Lester: Of course, there is no definitive weight in a running shoe because more than any other product, it is very individual. But, as a general rule, summer shoes are lighter and faster, so you’ll be thinking of shoes that weigh less than 300g for that 10km PB rip. If you’re considering long distance, consider extra cushioning and therefore some, but not all, extra weight, bringing the shoes into the mid 300s.
Toe box: The rocks will be there summer or winter, so look for protection in this department all year round.
Drop: There is almost a generation gap here. Older shoe models run with an 8-12mm drop for a higher, more cushioned ride, while most shoes today sit around 4-6mm for a closer to the ground feel and faster. As with any shoe advice, it’s always about what feels good personally. In theory, it’s worth progressing to lower shoes because they feel faster (half the work), but it may come at a cost to your calf muscles. There are also lower drops with 0mm barefoot replication. The jury is out right now on which is best!
Midsole: EVA, PU, TPU or Pebax are the foams of choice for most brands. All offer varying degrees of softness and suppleness.
Adapt: There’s the traditional lacing system, of course, but the Salomon system and the Boa fit a variety of brands, including La Sportiva and Adidas, provide superb stability over rough and steep terrain. Consider the surfaces you will be running. Tough descents and contours lend themselves to this new fit system.
Leg length: Summer shoes will offer less grip, so lugs of around 3mm at most, while winter shoes go up to 6mm and even beyond on occasion. Rubber, of course, wears out faster, so shoes with longer lugs should stay strictly off-road!
The best summer trail shoes
Hoka Tecton X
Verdict: An excellent, very comfortable carbon shoe, although not the best suited for very technical trails.
Advantages: Carbon and all the speed and power it provides
The inconvenients: A bit unstable for really technical trails
It’s a real winner and the current leader in the off-road carbon world. Unsurprisingly, it’s our sister’s Trail Running shoe of the year.
It’s hard not to get too excited when the shoe’s tech specs include the description: “dual veneer carbon.” This may mean that you’ll run a little faster – at least you will on smooth, even roads. But how is the off-road performance? Well, early reports suggest it will be a contender. You will have to be very picky about where you run them though. Smooth paths are acceptable, more technical terrain may be more problematic.
The Hoka Tecton X shoes are very comfortable and the 3mm drop is nice. But because of the moving, segmented carbon plates, the Tecton X doesn’t ride smoothly on uneven surfaces. The prices might seem a little steep, but it’s super competitive for a carbon shoe and your legs will definitely thank you. We took them to Skiddaw and through Snowdonia with no problem!
Weight 255g (men 11) | Lugs 4mm | Midsole Beginner Meta-Rocker | outsole Vibram Megagrip with Litebase | Men’s sizes 6.5-13.5 | Women’s sizes 3.5-9.5
Arc’Teryx Norvan LD 3 GTX
Verdict: Top quality waterproof and breathable trail running shoes, but they don’t come cheap.
Advantages: An all-rounder that thrives on high mountain trails, parks, canal paths and even road adventures.
The inconvenients: Maybe a bit pricey.
It’s a shoe with a very definite fanbase – us included. Not because he stands out in the world of style, but rather because he does business with confidence. If you can take a shoe out for five hours in the Alps with no problem, in our books that must be a winner.
The Norvan GTX LD looks simple, but it certainly isn’t. The Cordura upper is breathable and waterproof, and the dual-layer internal construction minimizes chafing. The toe box is sized to accommodate the flare, and the heel and forefoot stack absorbs shock. The aggressive 4mm lug pattern of the grippy Vibram Megagrip outsole provides security in pretty extreme terrain – in the summer. It has a very user friendly 6mm drop so it takes no getting used to and is happy to head for the mountains from the start!
You might say the price is a little steep, but Arc’Teryx never skimps on build quality. This is a case where you get what you pay for.
lester 260g (women 5) | Lugs 4mm | midsole Infuse | outsole Vibram Megagrip Litebase | Men’s sizes 6.5-12.5 | Women’s sizes 3.5-8.5
Inov8 TrailTalon 235
Verdict: Great value and wonderful for quick trail trips.
Advantages: A traditional shoe that delivers high performance in a style you’re comfortable with
The inconvenients: Definitely only a runner. You would need another pair for training
If racing – or at the very least feeling like you’re going at pace – is on the agenda, then you must, must welcome these shoes into your fleet. The shoe features Powerflow, which works by absorbing shock energy and impact forces throughout the heel strike phase of the gait cycle.
At this point, the midsole unit transfers harnessed energy to the forefoot area where it pushes you towards your next step, providing energy return. It’s all packed into a 4mm low shoe (with 4mm lugs) that’s almost a throwback to the fallen shoes of the past. A rubber bumper protects the toes from rocks and sharp stones. We also like the attractive price.
lester 240g (men 10) | Lugs 4mm | Midsole EVA | outsole Dual Density Frixion | Men’s sizes 7.5-11.5 | Women’s sizes 3-8.5
La Sportiva Bushido II
Verdict: Comfortable and grippy, these shoes are ideal for alpine trail running. But availability can be a bit scarce.
Advantages: Tough in the extreme, they’ll deal with some pretty tough stuff
The inconvenients: To really appreciate them, you have to like running at a distance
For anyone with something mountainous in mind, it’s worth paying close attention to this lightweight, competitive shoe. Designed with the sky in mind, it offers a comfortable, stable fit that testers say has excellent grip. Admittedly, the length of the studs is a modest 3.5 mm, so don’t venture into deep mud, but they have a very specific role: comfort and safety on the rocky trails of the high Alps. You were warned!
Cushioning is good, but on the hard side, so up to two or maybe three hours is about all they can handle. We loved the fit thanks to the mesh upper that allows air to flow in and out, regulating temperature. Thanks to the import issues, they are a bit difficult to obtain.
lester 300g (men 9) | Lugs 3.5mm | midsole power flow | outsoleRubber Inov8 | Men’s sizes6.5-14 | Women’s sizes4-8
Scarpa Golden Gate ATR
Advantages:Wonderfully responsive, smooth and happy to mix all sorts of trails
The inconvenients:A little heavy, but it’s ultra picky
These test notes should tell you everything you need to know: “first race in shoes, 20 km off-road on river paths; responsive, comfortable. Nothing negative to report!” Further investigation reveals these to be a slightly firmer feel, sporting 4mm lugs for Scarpa’s unquestionable safety on rougher ground, as well as comfort on cobbled surfaces.
In terms of technology, what really stands out is the protective glove that eliminates pesky streaks that want to find their way into your shoe. For a shoe that performs on a 4mm drop, the answer is good – the result of the dual-density EVA midsole and rocker system.
They are also at a great price, always a plus in our world. The same goes for the fact that they caught many admiring glances during a test in the Canary Islands (where the terrain is very difficult thanks to volcanic rock).
lester331g (men 11) | Lugs4mm | midsoleEVA and rocker | outsoleRESA TRN-02, a durable and high-performance rubber| Men’s sizes5-14| Women’s sizes4-14
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