Patagonia Fore Runner Running Shoes
This shoe’s beauty runs more than skin deep. On flat, mellow trails, the Fore Runner kept up with the best shoes in our test, with a low-riding, thin-midsole, midfoot-strike-friendly gait. The wind-resistant soft-shell upper placed this at the top of the comfy scale, but the lack of overlays made for disappointingly insecure fit on hills and corners. 7.8 oz; 4-mm heel-to-toe drop.
Asics Gel-Scout Running Shoes
Our favorite shoes for flat, winding dirt. ASICS’s trademark soft foam gives these a comfortable and lively feel that makes you want to tack on a few more miles. But the loose heel and insecure midfoot don’t play nice on steep terrain: these got squirrelly as soon as we left the beaten trail. Best for wide and higher-volume feet. 9.4 oz; 10-mm heel-to-toe drop.
Salomon XT Wings 3 Running Shoes
Leaner and meaner—with 1.5 fewer ounces and toothier lugs—the third edition of the XT Wings is a more aggressive mountain runner. It boasts a responsive forefoot, a moderately thick heel for downhills (favoring heel strikers), and a secure midfoot to keep things steady in the rocky gnar. The small-pore mesh is warm and fairly water-resistant. Best for higher-volume feet. 10.9 oz; 10.5-mm heel-to-toe drop.
Ecco Biom Trail GTX Running Shoes
The Trail is a strict teacher: its extra-firm mid-sole pretty much demands a midfoot strike. Ecco bills it as a “natural motion” shoe, but that’s probably stretching it, given how much rubber is underfoot and how high and firm the heel is. It excels in mud and sloppy snow thanks to oversize lugs and a Gore-Tex membrane. 10.1 oz; 12-mm heel-to-toe drop.
Inov-8 Terrafly 277 Running Shoes
Midsoles don’t get much thinner or firmer, making the Terrafly 277 a true minimalist speedster best suited to roads or packed trails. The underfoot feel is stoutly protective but brutally honest—if you need any kind of pronation control, or prefer a well-cushioned shoe, the Terrafly isn’t for you. But the stiff mesh upper is reassuringly snug. Best for narrower feet. 8.3 oz; 6-mm heel-to-toe drop.
Mizuno Wave Enigma 2 Running Shoes
One tester summed it up best: “A fast shoe trapped in a cruiser’s body.” A fat tongue, thick foam, and stiff forefoot make the Wave Enigma 2 a supportive shoe for long hauls, while the bouncy TPU “wave plate” stretching from heel to toe gives it energetic instincts. Minor gripe: the outsole’s deep flex grooves can feel blocky on tarmac. 11.6 oz; 12-mm heel-to-toe drop.