Best New Cross-Over, Go Anywhere Trail Shoes
3 Trail running shoes that will take you from door to mountain top, deftly navigating pavement, gravel, dirt and rocks.
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Now more than ever, we’re starting adventures from our doorstep. If those journeys end up on gnarly rock-and-root-strewn mountainsides, or even venture onto muddy paths, we need a shoe that can handle the traction, cushioning and support challenges of a wide variety of terrains. Fortunately, these models will shine from sidewalk to single-track with a smooth and supportive feel wherever you take them.
Altra Timp 2.0
Weight: 9.9 oz (M); 8.7 oz (W)
Drop: 0 mm
A well-fitting, smooth-riding, springy, balanced shoe that can take on long, rugged trails, but won’t beat you up on roads.
How They Ride:
The first Timp—and the version 1.5—delivered an adaptable, well-cushioned ride, but it felt a bit slow and clunky. No more. This second version of the Timp is softer, lighter, more flexible, bouncier and smoother. The outsole is slightly less sluggish (but still plenty grippy), with multiple flex grooves that allow it to move with the foot and flex naturally through the stride. Combined with 29mm of bouncy Quantic midsole, the feel underfoot somehow delivers both plush comfort and responsive performance that allowed our test team to feel the ground underfoot but not worry about bone bruising.
“I really enjoyed the road feel these shoes give while simultaneously helping you to feel supported and springy,” said one tester. “The outsole was the best part in terms of being flexible but also having a ‘cushion’ feel,” said another, who noted that the feel transitioned well over varied terrain. “The flexible outsole and traction made for a good hybrid from gravel/trails to road.”
The streamlined mesh upper with flexible overlays completes the package. Testers raved: “Perfect fit, roomy toe box.” “Extremely comfortable and light, well-fitting. The integrated tongue helps with support and comfort. No tight spots and certainly not flimsy.” “The fit is more of a racier type compared to the Timp 1.5 that felt clunky.”
The level cushioning from heel to toe creates stable and nimble footplants over any terrain, while the softness of the midsole adapts the underfoot feel for any stride. One tester said the Timp 2’s delivered “all the benefits of the minimal Altra, but with more durable materials for extreme weather and terrain.” Another said they made her feel, “Fast and flighty, like an improved runner.”
Weight: 10.3 oz (M); 9.2 oz (W)
Drop: 8 mm
A great everyday option for most every runner, the Divide is accessible in fit, ride and price—while surprisingly capable over any terrain.
How They Ride:
An all-new trail shoe from Brooks, the Divide impressed our testers with its easy-to-love fit and versatile, uncomplicated ride. The fit accommodates wide feet and allows for forefoot splay, while wrapping and supporting comfortably and securely. “Nice knit upper and good reinforcement in all the places connecting to the midsole,” said one tester.
The platform underfoot is moderately cushioned with a moderate stack height, a moderate 8mm drop, and a moderately-stiff rock plate—all of which makes it just right for just about any day. The ride doesn’t wow, but doesn’t offend either: it’s stable without controlling, cushioned without being squishy, and pretty much stays out of the way. “Plenty of cushion, very responsive,” said another tester, who added, “I felt that shoes gave me plenty of protection on tough terrain full of rocks and dry dirt.”
Most didn’t deem the Divide suitable for highly technical trails due to the relaxed fit and less-aggressive tread, but testers found themselves reaching for these often, particularly when the day included a mixture of surfaces. “The shoe transitions easily from gravel to dirt to pavement, making even ‘boring’ paths a bit more enjoyable,” summed up one tester. With such versatility and easy-to-swallow price point, the Divide offers incredible bang for the buck to the “trail curious” runner.
Salomon Sense Ride 3
Weight: 9.9 oz (M); 8.3 oz (W)
Drop: 8 mm
A versatile ride that grips a variety of trails and can cross over smoothly to roads, with an improved fit and optimal balance between protection and feel for the trail.
How They Ride:
Goldilocks would be so pleased with the Sense Ride 3. While the original was too narrow and too firm for most runners, this version gets the fit and comfort just right, from step-in to mountain top.
With its wider toe box and supportive heel wrap, the upper hugs the foot with an enveloping wrap that our testers found enhanced their sense of agility and responsiveness. Salomon simplified the upper with a clean design using a durable mesh and welded overlays. An internal chassis provides an excellent midfoot hold that is firm yet not binding, and the speedlacing provides Salomon’s signature one-pull, dynamic, secure and adaptable fit. Note that, even with the wider toe box, the upper is what one tester called a “trim fit” without a lot of space for those who want or need toe splay roominess.
The dual-layer midsole with a segmented rock plate does an admirable job of protecting the foot, dampening impact and providing energy return. The ride is appropriately firm and proprioceptive when navigating technical footing, but noticeably softens and smooths landings, particularly on descents. One tester described it as “not squishy, but firm in a good way.”
The geometry of the midsole, with molded sidewalls on both sides of the heel, enhances the feeling of centered security. “Speedy and agile,” was how one tester described how the shoe made him feel. “The Sense Ride 3 made me push descents with confidence and a sense of adventure.”