Trail running and Ultramarathons are an incredibly fast-growing sport in the past few years. Within these two sports, there is a very high percentage of women and I can tell you they are getting absolutely amazing results.
It seems the longer the distance, the more competitive the ladies are – in some cases, they are overall winners in some of the races. Generally, this wouldn’t happen over a shorter distance.
With the ever-growing popularity over the past few years, there has been a greater demand for trail running shoes. So in the post, I’m going to review the best trail running shoes for women.
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TRAIL RUNNING SHOE BUYERS GUIDE
Whenever you are considering any pair of trail shoes there are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration. Where are you going to be running, what sort of grip do you need, do you have wide or narrow feet, what sort of distance am I going to be running.
There’s a lot to take in, so this buying guide has been created to help you decide what shoe may be best suited to you for your trail runs.
TYPE OF TERRAIN
One of the first things to consider is the type of terrain you are going to be running on. This is important as you don’t want to be under or overprotected for the trail you are running on. Let me explain in more detail:
GRAVEL OR HARD PACKED TRAILS
For this type of trail, you can get away with minimal toe protection due to the lack of roots and rocks. You can also get away with a lighter less protected shoe as the hazards are very limited. Just make sure you have sufficient grip to cope with the loose gravel – you might get away with a road shoe but the grip won’t really be sufficient.
This is where we get into the more rocky, rooted and muddy type trails. For these, there is certainly a requirement for toe and foot protection as there are plenty of hazards on this type of trail. The sole needs to have a better multi-directional grip to cope with all the underfoot ground you need to cope with.
MUDDY AND SOFT GROUND
The main requirements for this type of ground are deeper lugs on the sole of the shoe and ideally ones that are spaced apart enough to allow the mud to come away from the shoe. There’s nothing worse than trying to drag 2lb of mud around on the bottom of your foot. Another good option for this type of environment is to have a waterproof shoe to save having uncomfortable wet feet.
Unlike normal everyday shoes, the trail shoe should fit a certain way. They need to be close fitting around the heel and snug around the midfoot so your foot doesn’t move around inside the shoe. It’s also advisable to have a bit of room around the toes as well – the width of a finger is a good gauge of where they should be. Have your toes too tight to the front of the shoe and you are going to notice it on downhill rock sections. I smashed my toes to bits a few years ago by not taking this advice.
HEEL TO TOE DROP
Another important factor for you to consider. Heel to toe drop is just what it says. If you have a heel stack height on a shoe of 28mm and its 20mm on the forefoot then you have a drop of 8mm. It’s important to understand what drop is best for you. The smaller drop will promote a mid to forefoot strike which is a great way of running. A higher drop may promote heel striking which causes a lot of unnecessary impact on the joints and should be avoided where possible.
Some shoes have a Zero Drop (0mm). These are generally great shoes to run in as they promote a more natural running form. However, these type of shoes should be phased in gradually as they stretch the Achilles and calf muscles if you are used to ‘normal’ shoes. Start off gradually and allow your body to get used to the new way of running.
Then we have the 4mm – 8mm range of shoe. This is the middle of the road as such and is suited to those who run the trails regularly. Like the zero drop shoe, they promote a more efficient running style.
Finally, we have the 8mm to 12mm range. Less stress on the calves and are probably better for those just starting out on the trails. It has also been said that this type of drop is good if you have suffered from injuries like Plantar Fasciitis – however, having suffered from this, I found that a good quality pair of insoles did the trick and I could still run in 0mm – 8mm shoes easily.
One thing you will find, especially if you move into the ultramarathon world is that your feet will sweat and swell up. Try and make sure you purchase a pair of shoes that are not only breathable but also dry quickly too. At some point, over time you are going to encounter very hot weather and probably water. Getting shoes with good upper material will be one of the best decisions you can make.
With everything outlined above in mind, lets review the best trail running shoes for women in 2019.
ALTRA LONE PEAK 4.0
- Zero Drop is a Stable Platform
- Very Comfortable
- Drain Well When Wet
- Great for All Distances
- Wide Fit Not For Everyone
- Maybe a Little Heavy for Some
The Altra Lone Peak 4.0 is the companies flagship Trail running shoe and for very good reason. The shoe is hugely popular among the trail running community due to its ability to keep you comfortable on the longest of runs. Whilst it is a phenomenal Ultra Marathon shoe, it’s also great for shorter distances as well.
The shoe has a zero drop platform, which means the heel to toe drop is nothing. This allows you to run far more naturally with a barefoot style feel. But don’t worry, the cushioning underfoot is also excellent, giving you a hugely comfortable ride. The toe shaped forefoot allows the toes to splay out which in turn offers more stability. Personally, it’s something I love as my toes are not jammed together as with standard shoes so I can run for very long distances without any worries at all.
The upper of the shoe is made mainly of a quick-dry mesh plus support from a reinforced toe cap and heel cup. You can be assured that this will protect you from those protruding roots or rocks whilst out on the trail. With the quick-dry mesh you will find that the shoes drain very quickly after those puddles we always seem to find. The midsole of the shoe is made with Altra’s very own foam blend and also has a stone guard to protect you from anything sharp you may encounter on the run.
After 100+ miles of running the shoes still, look new with no scuffs or wear and tear to the soles or grip. This tells me that this is a very durable shoe and should last well. Certainly, the previous versions of the shoe I have owned have lasted very well and I used them in all conditions and terrains.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a solid trail shoe that will keep you protected and comfortable whilst out on the trails then look no further than the Lone Peak 4.0. A solid trail shoe that will keep you comfortable all day long.
INOV-8 WOMENS TERRA ULTRA 260
- Zero Drop
- Very Comfortable
- Excellent Grip
- Lots of Toe Room
- Might Be Expensive for Some
The Terra Ultra is Inov-8’s first venture into an ultra marathon shoe. They have always made excellent trail shoes but this one has the comfort for the long haul. I have personally been using the male version of this shoe for a few months now, covering 100+ miles and can honestly say that the comfort levels won’t disappoint in any way.
There is ample room around the toe area which is something I personally love about the shoe. With the right socks, these are a dream out on the trails. The shoe fits snuggly around the heel and at no point do you feel that your foot is moving around too much. In fact, your foot will feel secure when you are going over the different terrains, which is great news for any trail runner.
Much like the Altra shoes, the Terra Ultra is a zero drop shoe, meaning it really suits runners who have a mid or forefoot strike. As I have said on many occasions, if you are not used to zero drop, take your time and don’t go on huge runs from the off. Allow your body to get used to them – once it has, you will wonder why you haven’t always run like this.
The outsole has 4mm lugs which are great for hard-packed trails, wet rocks, and some slightly muddy conditions. The grip overall is very good and the traction is great when going up those hills or rocky areas.
Overall the Inov-8 Terraultra 260 is a very good shoe, not only for Ultra Marathons but is equally proficient at smaller distances. Certainly, in the past few months, this has been one of my go-to shoes and I am really enjoying running many distances and terrains in them. Certainly, a big thumbs up for Inov-8 and definitely a shoe you should be considering for your long runs.
SAUCONY PEREGRINE ISO
- Standard or Wide Fit Options
- Competitive Price
- Toe Guard Could Be Better
- Not as Robust as Other Makes
The Saucony Peregrine ISO is, without doubt, a hugely comfortable shoe. Some say it’s like wearing a pair of slippers they are that good. I had a pair of Peregrine 8’s which were the last version of the shoe, and they really were very comfortable indeed.
The sole is very flexible which in turn allows for a comfortable ride over many terrains with its 4mm drop. Saucony has a unique grip on the sole with multi-directional lugs. The company calls this PWRTRAK (not really sure why), but they do offer a very good grip on a multitude of surfaces. Surprisingly, the shoe actually performs quite well on the tarmac as well as mud. So if you are running from home to the trail then these shoes will cope well.
The upper has a nice hugging fit to the foot and the material has a slightly stretchy feel to it. The heel and midfoot are well protected and you feel safe around this area. The only downside, in my opinion, is the toe protection could be a little better. I’m not sure I would feel confident kicking a rock and knowing my toes would be ok. However, if you’re not running on rocky terrain then that should be a problem.
Overall, the Peregrine ISO is a hugely comfortable shoe that will suit many runners with its Medium and Wide fitting options. The grip is very good and is comfortable over many surfaces. The only negative with the shoe is that some say it isn’t as durable as other manufacturers. My only thoughts on this would be to not run them through the harshest of terrains – if you are planning on doing that then a different shoe might be for you.
INOV-8 ROCLITE 290
- Lots of Toe Room
- Competitive Price
- No Arch Support
Inov-8 are one of the top manufacturers of trail shoes in the world. So because of this, they know a thing or two about producing great shoes for a variety of different surfaces. The Roclite 290 is the shoe they have produced as an all-terrain beast and it’s up there with the best of them for sure.
It has a Graphene enhanced G-Grip outsole which is tough and built to last with 6mm lugs capable of gripping in muddy and wet conditions. The shoe itself works equally well on the mountain rock, muddy grass, and hard-packed trails, making it a true all-rounder.
It has a 4mm drop making it very efficient to run and allows for fast-paced running on top of that. Inov-8 also states that with the POWERFLOW midsole, the shoe gives 10% better shock absorption as well as 15% better energy return than that of standard midsoles. With the integrated rock plate it gives great protection against rocks and roots underfoot.
The upper is made with a breathable mesh, giving the shoe great comfort, breathability as well as being highly durable. The materials are also non-water absorbing, meaning they dry quickly when they have been through the wet areas on the run.
Having owned around 8 different pairs of Inov-8’s over the past couple of years, I can honestly say the quality of the shoes are excellent and they fit wonderfully – even for my wider feet. The Roclite 290 is no exception and is definitely a shoe you should be considering for your varied trail runs. The shoe has no arch support, so if you have high arches then you should consider your own insole if required.
COLUMBIA VARIANT X.S.R
- Breathable Upper
- Decent Prices
- Plenty of Room
- Upper not as Durable as Other Makes
Columbia Montrail has been making mountain trail shoes for years. The brand might not be well known as other big manufacturers, but don’t let that fool you with the quality of their shoes. The Variant XSR is no exception and is a great choice of shoe if you run on the roads and the trails. It will certainly save you from having to buy a pair for each.
The shoe comes in an 8mm heel to toe drop so is ideal for the ‘normal’ runner and they are very comfortable indeed. With a stack height of 23mm at the heel to 15mm to the forefoot, there’s plenty of cushioning to give you a comfortable ride. With the new PEARLFOAM, Columbia state that you will receive superior energy return in a very comfortable package.
The outsole is a highly durable and abrasion-resistant rubber. There are no lugs, only grooves as this shoe are meant for the road and harder packed trails. I have tried the men’s version in wet and slightly muddy conditions and they held up fairly well. I just wouldn’t purchase them if wet and muddy trails are your thing.
The upper is a seamless mesh which is very breathable, and the heel is cradled very well. I had no issues with the shoe moving around when I was out on longer runs and the upper was very comfortable. The rubber toe guard is pretty good too. If you were to kick a rock I think this would offer pretty good protection.
Overall, the Variant XSR would be a great choice if you are considering a road to trail shoe. They aren’t as light as a lot of road shoes, but as there is additional protection required for the trails I think they hold up fairly well.
The only concern I might have is that the mesh upper might wear quickly, but then again looks can be deceiving. I had a pair of Columbia Bajada 3’s that lasted nearly a 1000 miles of running and the upper and outsole held up just fine.
NEW BALANCE HIERRO V4
- Vibram Outsole
- Highly Cushioned
- Wide Base Aids Stability
- Sock Style Upper
- The Upper May Not Be Durable
If maximum comfort and cushioning is your thing then the Hierro v3 might just be for you. The shoe has a drop of 8mm with a stack height of 30mm at the heel and 22mm in the forefoot. That’s a lot of cushioning to keep you comfortable on those longer runs.
There is a Vibram outsole which means it’s of the highest quality and will grip any surface really well. The lugs on the outsole are not particularly deep, which is helpful for tarmac, but there are plenty of them. They are also multi-directional which means they can grip very well whichever direction you move out on the trails.
The base of the shoe is also quite wide so there is plenty of stability. It may just take a little while to get used to this sort of width on narrow trails.
This shoe boasts a sock-like upper to give you maximum comfort. Being a sock-style upper, the material grips around your ankle which in turn stops any little stones or bits of grit getting into the shoe. It’s also a no-sew upper so you won’t have any stitched joins irritating your foot when you are out and about.
Overall the Hierro v3 is an excellent shoe if you are looking for maximum comfort and cushioning on your runs. It copes very well with both road and a multitude of trail surfaces, making it a great one shoe does all option.
At this point, it’s hard to tell if the upper will be durable in the long run, but there certainly haven’t been any concerns up to now as far as I can tell.
SALOMON SPEEDCROSS 5
- Grips Anything
- Very Rugged
- Good Protection
- Can Buy Waterproof Model
- Not for Road Running
- Maybe Narrow for Some
Salomon has been making trail shoes for years so they know what they are doing. Speedcross 5 has to be one of their most popular shoes to date. It doesn’t matter what races I attend, you will always see loads of Speedcross shoes. There are many reasons for this, so here are just a few.
The grip on this shoe is second to none. Most trails shoes will have a maximum 4mm lug but these have 6mm arrows like lugs that grip the most gnarly of rocks and muddiest of tracks. You will feel completely in control with the grip on this shoe and I can say that when I owned my pair of Speedcross shoes, they never let me down at all.
The upper is very robust and has maximum foot protection whilst not adding too much extra weight. The shoe can also be bought in a waterproof version which is worth thinking about if you are going to be going through streams and very wet muddy areas. It also boasts Salomons quick lace feature, which is basically a drawcord, so there is no need to try and tie laces with cold wet hands.
Overall, if your planning to run on rocky or muddy terrain, or maybe planning an obstacle race or two, then the Speedcross 5 might just be the perfect shoe for you. The shoe is very narrow and is designed for fast racing so if your feet are wide you need to consider this before buying.
INOV-8 X CLAW 275
- Great Grip
- Good Protection
- Not for Road Running
Here is another shoe from the Inov-8 range. This time it’s the X Claw 275 which is just perfect for those wet muddy trails. Inov-8 originally started as a company who specialized in Fell running shoes and these fit that mould completely.
The X Claw has 8mm lugs along with specific grooves in the outsole which grip muddy conditions really well, but also expel the mud really well from the shoe so there is no clogging up of the mud. A feature that is fantastic for fast running and keeping the weight off the shoe.
There is an 8mm drop with a stack height of 16mm at the heel and 8mm at the forefoot. That’s just enough cushioning to keep you happy whilst keeping the shoe as light and sleek as possible.
The upper is a fine mesh material which happens to be really durable but also very lightweight. The material also has a water-resistant coating and there is a great toe bumper at the front to keep your toes safe.
Overall the X Claw is a great option for muddy or rocky runs whilst keeping you comfortable and allowing you to race fast. If you haven’t tried Inov-8 shoes before, maybe this is the time to give them a go.
Whatever type of shoe you are looking for to match the terrain, the shoes outlined above will do it justice. These shoes have been chosen as they are class leaders for the terrains they suit. If you haven’t tried shoes from Inov-8 before then I would recommend these as a great option.
You can also check out my other review posts for the best trail running gear out there today.
Do you have a shoe you use for the trails? Is there another shoe you would like to see my review?
Drop us a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.