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Are you looking for the perfect pair of trail shoes that keep you light on your feet? Explore our roundup of the finest trail running shoes with low drops! They are designed for stability and agility on rugged terrain. These shoes offer a minimal height difference between the heel and toe. They also promote a more natural stride and enhance your trail running experience. Whether you’re a beginner hitting the trails for the first time or a seasoned runner seeking top-notch performance, we’ve got you covered with our top picks tailored to your needs.

1. Saucony Peregrine 14

Saucony Peregrine 14
Drop: 4mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 2.8 oz.
Cushioning: Moderate
Waterproof: No

The Saucony Peregrine 14 is a solid choice for adventurers who love exploring rugged terrains. With their durable design and grippy outsoles, these shoes provide reliable traction on any type of trail. The debris-resistant construction keeps unwanted dirt and debris out, ensuring a sturdy and long-lasting build that can withstand the challenges of nature.

Step into comfort with the PWRRUN+ sock liner, offering cushioned landings no matter the surface. The softer blend of PWRRUN cushioning provides moderate cushioning for added comfort during your runs. The versatile 5 mm lug design offers a tough grip on various terrains, while the tacky PWRTRAC outsoles deliver rugged traction you can trust. Whether you’re navigating rocky paths or muddy trails, the Saucony Peregrine 14s will keep you steady on your feet.

What I like: A lightweight shoe with impressive performance on tough trails.

What I don’t: The lacing system can be tricky for a secure fit.

See the Saucony Peregrine 14 See the Women’s Peregrine 14

2. Altra Lone Peak 8

Altra Lone Peak 8
Drop: 0mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 5.4 oz.
Cushioning: Moderate
Waterproof: No

The Altra Lone Peak 8 shoes are built tough for any adventure you throw at them. The sturdy ripstop mesh uppers ensure durability, so they can handle rough trails without wearing out quickly. Plus, with StoneGuards™ protecting your feet from rocks and debris, you can confidently tackle any terrain without worrying about discomfort.

These shoes are designed for comfort too, with a roomy toe box and zero drop for a natural fit that lets you move freely. The Altra EGO™ midsole foam offers a balance of responsiveness and cushioning, so your feet stay happy mile after mile. And with Grippy MaxTrac™ outsoles providing excellent traction on any surface, you’ll feel secure with every step you take. Whether it’s a casual jog or an epic trail run, the Altra Lone Peak 8s are up to the challenge.

What I like: A comfy shoe that lets your foot rest naturally.

What I don’t: Feels sluggish and slipper-like; can be too roomy for narrow feet.

See the Altra Lone Peak 8 See the Women’s Lone Peak 8

3. Hoka Speedgoat 5

Hoka Speedgoat 5
Drop: 4mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 4.6 oz.
Cushioning: Moderate
Waterproof: No (Available)

The HOKA Speedgoat 5 is like a reliable guide on rough trails. They’re grippy, meaning they grab onto the ground firmly, and cushioned, giving your feet a comfy ride. These shoes are like trailblazers, leading the way with their updated features. Their upgraded Vibram® Megagrip outsole with Traction Lug delivers superior traction on loose soil Despite their robust features, these shoes are surprisingly lightweight, thanks to a lighter CMEVA midsole compound.

With a new Vibram® Megagrip outsole, they have even better traction on loose soil, helping you stay steady on your feet. Plus, they’re lighter than before, so you can move faster without feeling weighed down. The recycled materials used in the construction, like the double-layer jacquard mesh and polyester laces, make them eco-friendly too. Whether you’re tackling rocky paths or muddy trails, these shoes provide the stability and confidence you need for a smooth journey.

What I like: Exceptional comfort and grip in a featherlight design.

What I don’t: Thick midsole reduces trail feel on technical terrain.

See the Hoka Speedgoat 5 See the Women’s Speedgoat 5

4. Merrell Trail Glove 7

Merrell Trail Glove 7
Drop: 0mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 2.4 oz.
Cushioning: Barefoot
Waterproof: No

The Merrell Trail Glove 7 trail running shoes are a game-changer for those who prefer a low-drop design. They are perfect for runners who love feeling close to the ground and want to let their feet move freely. With its lightweight design and barefoot feel, these shoes are like an extension of your feet, making them great for exploring the trails. The 100% recycled materials used in the construction, including breathable mesh uppers, laces, and webbing, align with eco-friendly values.

Featuring Bellows tongues to keep out debris and external rear slings to lock in your heels, these shoes are practical for rugged terrains. Plus, the use of recycled materials throughout, including mesh linings and insoles, shows Merrell’s commitment to sustainability. The Vibram® ECOSTEP Recycle outsoles provide excellent grip on both wet and dry surfaces, while the Minimal FloatPro™ Foam midsoles offer lasting lightweight comfort. Overall, the Merrell Trail Glove 7 delivers a natural and eco-conscious trail-running experience that’s hard to beat.

What I like: Barefoot feel allows your feet to move more naturally.

What I don’t: The minimalist design of the Trail Glove 7 lacks cushioning.

See the Merrell Trail Glove 7 See the Women’s Trail Glove 7

5. HOKA Challenger 7

HOKA Challenger 7
Drop: 4mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 1.8 oz.
Cushioning: Maximum
Waterproof: No (Available)

The HOKA Challenger 7 trail runners blend the smoothness of road running with the grip needed for trails. They’re lighter than before, with new materials from top to bottom. The increased stack height gives a cushy sensation underfoot, while the soft foam midsoles offer comfort mile after mile. The mesh uppers are simpler yet durable, and the proprietary rubber on the outsoles, inspired by gravel tires, ensures a steady ride on any terrain. With 4 mm lugs strategically placed for enhanced traction, navigating uneven paths feels secure. Plus, the extended heel pulls and recycled polyester laces make slipping into these shoes a breeze.

Its updated design prioritizes both performance and comfort, making it an ideal companion for tackling varied terrains. Whether you’re speeding along trails or taking on challenging inclines, these shoes offer reliable grip and support. With thoughtful details like recycled laces and easy-entry heel pulls, they’re not just functional but also environmentally conscious. Overall, the Challenger 7 excels in providing a smooth ride with enhanced traction, making it a top choice for adventurers seeking versatility and performance in their trail running shoes.

What I like: The design of the Challenger 7 allows it to seamlessly transition between road and trail running.

What I don’t: Feels a little more stiff and less supportive compared to Challenger 6.

See the HOKA Challenger 7 See the Women’s Challenger 7

6. Altra Superior 6

Altra Superior 6
Drop: 0mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 4.2 oz.
Cushioning: Minimal
Waterproof: No

The Altra Superior 6 is perfect for those who love to feel light and agile on the trails. With their lightweight cushioning and excellent grip, these shoes make exploring the outdoors a breeze, no matter your running speed. The updated features of the Altra Superior 6 make them a standout choice for any trail runner. The burrito-style wraparound tongues provide a snug and secure fit. It prevents any slippage or discomfort during your runs. Whether you’re navigating rocky terrain or muddy trails, these shoes offer the stability and support you need to conquer any challenge. With their combination of lightweight design, ample cushioning, and superior traction, the Altra Superior 6s are sure to become your go-to choice for all your trail adventures.

One of the standout features is the Altra FootShape™ design, which gives your feet more room to move naturally. This design takes into account the differences in men’s and women’s feet, ensuring a comfortable fit for everyone. Plus, the engineered knit textile uppers and improved mesh provide breathability, keeping your feet cool even on the toughest runs. With balanced cushioning and FootShape toe boxes, these shoes let your toes spread out comfortably, while the MaxTrac™ outsoles offer superior grip and durability, giving you the confidence to tackle any trail with ease.

What I like: Lightweight design for agile performance on the trails.

What I don’t: The durability of knit textile uppers and ripstop panels could potentially be a concern for runners in rugged terrains over time.

See the Altra Superior 6 See the Women’s Superior 6

7. Topo Athletic Runventure 4

Topo Athletic Runventure 4
Drop: 0mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 2.2 oz.
Cushioning: Minimal
Waterproof: No

The Topo Athletic Runventure 4 is a great choice for those who love to move quickly and smoothly over various terrains. With Vibram® XS Trek EVO rubber outsoles, these shoes provide excellent traction and durability. It ensures a steady grip on any surface. The mesh uppers not only offer increased breathability but also contribute to a lightweight and stable feel, perfect for long runs or hikes. Plus, with 15% recycled materials used in their construction, these shoes are a step towards sustainability.

On top of their performance features, the Runventure 4 shoes prioritize comfort and hygiene. The antimicrobial OrthoLite® insoles not only enhance underfoot comfort but also prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria, keeping your feet fresh mile after mile. The flexible 20 mm platforms strike a balance between cushioning and ground feel, providing a natural ride that connects you to the terrain. Additionally, these shoes are compatible with Topo Athletic Performance Gaiters, offering extra protection against dirt and debris (gaiters are sold separately). Overall, the Topo Athletic Runventure 4 shoes are a reliable choice for trail runners seeking peak performance and comfort in every step.

What I like: Excellent traction and durability with Vibram® XS Trek EVO rubber outsoles.

What I don’t: Compatibility with Topo Athletic Performance Gaiters may require an additional purchase.

See the Topo Athletic Runventure 4 See the Women’s Runventure 4

8. Salomon Thundercross GTX

Salomon Thundercross GTX
Drop: 4mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 7.7 oz.
Cushioning: Maximum
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)

The Salomon Thundercross GTX is a top choice for those seeking waterproof trail running shoes. With Gore-Tex membranes, your feet stay dry and comfy even on muddy trails. The springy midsoles offer smooth landings and energy-packed pops, making each stride fluid and effortless. Additionally, the combination of lightweight, responsive energy FOAM made from EVA and olefin (OBC) ensures long-lasting cushioning and bouncy energy return throughout your run. This innovative midsole technology not only provides comfort but also enhances the overall responsiveness of the shoes, allowing you to maintain momentum and agility on varied terrain.

Featuring a tight mesh design, these shoes prevent debris from bothering your feet while the Quicklace™ closures ensure a snug fit with easy on/off convenience. Plus, with 46% recycled content in the uppers, these shoes are environmentally conscious. The All Terrain Contagrip® rubber outsole provides durable traction on any surface, whether it’s wet, dry, hard, or loose, thanks to its aggressive 5 mm lugs with a chevron design for multidirectional grip. Whether you’re tackling mud or loose dirt, these shoes have got you covered with their excellent grip and stability.

What I like: Waterproof Gore-Tex membranes keep feet dry and comfortable in wet conditions.

What I don’t: A little more expensive than non-Gore-Tex models.

See the Salomon Thundercross GTX See the Women’s Thundercross GTX

9. Merrell Agility Peak 5

Merrell Agility Peak 5
Drop: 6mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 4.1 oz.
Cushioning: Maximum
Waterproof: No

The Merrell Agility Peak 5 is like your trusty companion for any adventure, whether you’re tackling rugged trails or enjoying a leisurely jog through nature. They’ve got you covered with features like increased rocker and reduced weight, making each step feel lighter and smoother. The sculpted heel cups ensure a snug fit, preventing any unwanted slipping while you’re on the move. Plus, with breathable engineered mesh and TPU uppers, your feet stay cool and comfortable throughout your run.

Not only do these shoes perform well, but they also have eco-friendly touches like 100% recycled laces and webbing, showing Merrell’s commitment to sustainability. The addition of gaiter D-rings and external rear slings further enhances the functionality of these shoes. It keeps your feet secure and protected on all types of terrain. With features like protective toe caps, odor control technology, and Vibram® Megagrip rubber outsoles for superior traction, the Merrell Agility Peak 5 trail runners are a solid choice for runners looking for comfort, durability, and performance in one package.

What I like: The sculpted heel cups and external rear slings help lock in your heels.

What I don’t: The footbeds are not removable.

See the Merrell Agility Peak 5 See the Women’s Agility Peak 5

10. The North Face Altamesa 500

The North Face Altamesa 500
Drop: 6mm
Weight (pair): 1 lb. 4.8 oz.
Cushioning: Maximum
Waterproof: No

The North Face Altamesa 500 trail running shoes are a versatile choice for runners who tackle various terrains, from gravel paths to mountain trails. With their cushioned and stable design, these shoes offer comfort and support no matter where your run takes you. The seamless engineered mesh uppers, made with 62% recycled material, provide breathability and durability while minimizing environmental impact. Featuring a comfort-focused fit with extra space for toes, ghillie lacing systems for secure lockdown, and reinforced toe caps for protection, these shoes are built to handle the challenges of trail running.

The plush heel cups and collars, along with padded tongues and internal wings for midfoot support, ensure a snug and comfortable fit. With ultralight DREAM midsole foam for high rebound and SURFACE CTRL™ rubber outsoles with grippy 4 mm lugs, these shoes offer both cushioning and traction on rugged terrain. Designed in collaboration with The North Face athlete team, the Altamesa 500 trail running shoes are a reliable choice for runners seeking stability and comfort on any trail adventure.

What I like: Suitable for a variety of terrains, including gravel paths and mountain trails.

What I don’t: They wear out relatively quickly, especially with frequent use on rough terrain.

See the North Face Altamesa 500 See the Women’s Altamesa 500

Best Low Drop Trail Runners: Comparison Table

Saucony Peregrine 144mm1 lb. 2.8 oz.ModerateNo
Altra Lone Peak 80mm1 lb. 5.4 oz.ModerateNo
Hoka Speedgoat 54mm1 lb. 4.6 oz.ModerateNo (Available)
Merrell Trail Glove 70mm1 lb. 2.4 oz.BarefootNo
HOKA Challenger 74mm1 lb. 1.8 oz.MaximumNo (Available)
Altra Superior 60mm1 lb. 4.2 oz.MinimalNo
Topo Athletic Runventure 40mm1 lb. 2.2 oz.MinimalNo
Salomon Thundercross GTX4mm1 lb. 7.7 oz.MaximumYes (Gore-Tex)
Merrell Agility Peak 56mm1 lb. 4.1 oz.MaximumNo
The North Face Altamesa 5006mm1 lb. 4.8 oz.MaximumNo

A Guide to Choosing Trail Running Shoes

A Guide to Choosing Trail Running Shoes

Unlike running on pavement, trail running presents its own set of challenges, from uneven terrain to varying weather conditions. To tackle these challenges head-on, having the right gear is essential, and one of the most critical pieces of equipment for any trail runner is their shoes. In this section, we’ll explore the ins and outs of trail running shoes, helping you make an informed decision when choosing the perfect pair for your next adventure.

Understanding Shoe Drop

Before diving into the specifics of low-drop trail runners, let’s clarify what “drop” means. The drop of a shoe refers to the height difference between the heel and the forefoot. Traditional running shoes typically have a higher drop, meaning the heel is elevated above the forefoot. On the other hand, low-drop shoes have a minimal height differential or even a zero-drop, where the heel and forefoot are at the same level.

Why Choose Low Drop Shoes?

  • Natural Foot Movement: Low-drop shoes promote a more natural foot strike. It encourages a midfoot or forefoot landing rather than a heel strike. This mimics barefoot running mechanics, which some runners find enhances their performance and reduces the risk of injury.
  • Improved Stability: With a lower heel, your foot sits closer to the ground, providing a more stable base. This can be advantageous on uneven terrain, where stability is crucial to prevent slips and falls.
  • Enhanced Proprioception: Proprioception refers to your body’s awareness of its position and movement in space. Low-drop shoes offer a better ground feel, allowing for increased proprioceptive feedback. This heightened awareness can help you navigate technical trails with greater confidence.

Consider Your Experience Level

If you are new to trail running or transitioning from traditional running shoes, it’s advisable to start with a moderate drop before moving to a lower drop. Gradually decreasing the drop allows your muscles and tendons to adapt to the change in biomechanics, reducing the risk of injury.

Assess Your Running Style

Understanding your running style is crucial. If you are a forefoot striker or prefer a more minimalist running experience, these shoes might be a great fit for you. However, if you have a history of heel striking, a gradual reduction in drop may be more suitable.

Terrain and Trail Conditions

Consider the type of terrain you will be tackling on your trail runs. For more technical and challenging trails with varying elevations, lower drops provide better stability. If your routes involve long stretches of flat or less demanding terrain, you may have more flexibility in choosing a slightly higher drop.

Cushioning and Protection

While low-drop shoes provide a more natural feel, it’s essential to ensure they offer adequate cushioning and protection. Look for shoes with responsive midsoles and durable outsoles to absorb impact and shield your feet from sharp objects on the trail.

Breathability and Drainage

Trail running often involves encountering different weather conditions and water crossings. Opt for shoes with breathable and quick-drying materials to keep your feet comfortable and prevent blisters. Additionally, drainage features can be beneficial for expelling water during wet conditions.

Grip and Traction

The grip and traction of your trail shoes play a pivotal role in navigating diverse terrains. Look for shoes with lugs and a tread pattern suitable for the surfaces you’ll be running on. Vibram soles are known for their excellent traction on various trail conditions.

Weight of the Shoes

Trail runners typically benefit from lightweight shoes that won’t weigh them down during long runs. While ensuring durability and protection, prioritize shoes that strike a balance between being lightweight and providing the necessary features for trail running.

Durability and Longevity

When shopping for budget-friendly trail running shoes, durability is key. Look for shoes constructed with sturdy materials and reinforced overlays in high-wear areas to ensure they withstand the rigors of trail running. While some budget models may not have the latest cutting-edge materials, prioritizing durability can help you get more mileage out of your shoes.

Fit and Comfort

Finding a comfortable fit is crucial for enjoying your trail running experience without discomfort or blisters. Even with a limited budget, prioritize trying on shoes and ensuring they provide adequate room in the toe box and a secure lockdown around the midfoot. Remember that everyone’s feet are different, so what works for one runner may not work for another.

Trail-Specific Features

Look for shoes with lugged outsoles for traction on varying terrains, as well as protective features like rock plates or toe guards, to shield your feet from hazards on the trail.

Brand Reputation and Reviews

Researching brands and reading reviews from fellow runners can help you narrow down your options and make informed decisions. While some lesser-known brands offer excellent value for money, established brands with a reputation for quality and customer satisfaction can provide added peace of mind.

Sales, Discounts, and Clearance Deals

Keep an eye out for sales, discounts, and clearance deals to score great bargains. Many retailers offer seasonal promotions or clearance sales to make room for new inventory. It allows you to snag last season’s models at significantly reduced prices. Additionally, consider shopping at outlet stores or online marketplaces for discounted shoes from previous seasons.


In conclusion, selecting the right shoes can greatly enhance your trail running adventures. By considering factors such as durability, comfort, trail-specific features, and budget, you can find the perfect pair to suit your needs. Remember to prioritize a comfortable fit and look for shoes that offer sufficient protection and traction on varied terrains. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned trail runner, the right pair of shoes can provide the support and stability you need to conquer any trail with confidence. So lace up your shoes, hit the trails, and enjoy the exhilarating experience of trail running!