How to choose the right trail shoes

Choosing the Best Trail Running Shoes
April 15, 2014

For the casual runner, road running shoes suffice for almost all purposes. However, once you start to deviate off the beaten track and discover trails, then a decent set of trail running shoes will be an excellent investment. Toe bumpers, ankle support, resilient uppers, rock protection in the outsole - trail running shoes have it all.

These days, it’s tricky to find one shoe that is suitable for every type of trail, so we’ve tried to suggest the types of running shoes most suitable for muddy obstacle races, dry trails, mountain running, ultra marathons and road-to-trail. Check out the different trail running shoes from Merrell to help you Out. Perform. over any terrain.

Muddy Obstacle Course Races

“Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud”

As a child I’d sing the Hippopotamus Song with glee as I splashed about in the mud.  And since obstacle course racing has appeared on the scene, I’ve once again been enjoying the earthy pleasures of glorious mud.  But with many of them attracting thousands of entrants, the course quickly becomes a muddy quagmire.

If you’ve ever tried running through mud with road running shoes, then you’ll know it’s akin to dancing on ice.  When running on muddy paths, it’s important that you feel confident under your feet.  The last thing you want to do is slip and slide all over the place. Not only does it slow you down, but it saps up your energy.

Best Muddy Trail Running Shoes – All Out Fuse + Ascend Glove/Ascend Glove Gore-Tex

Merrell All Out Fuse for Men in Blue

Merrell All Out Fuse for Men

Dry Trails

If it’s a well maintained trail, then you won’t need the same deep tread that muddy paths require.  On these sorts of trail, you want the toe protection (against the odd rocks) and sufficient grip to allow you to ascend and descend with confidence.

Best Dry Trail Running Shoes – Mix Master + All Out Fuse + Trail Glove 

Mountain (technical) running

From my experience of running technical mountain running events, from the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc to the Transalpine Run, I’ve wanted shoes with a low-ish heel to toe drop - about 6mm.  A shoe like the AllOut Rush is almost perfect for that sort of terrain.  Not only do you get the cushioning, bus you also get the reinforced toe guards to prevent stubbing your digits on the rocks.

Best Speed-Hiking/Mountain Trail Running ShoeAll Out Rush

Ultra Marathons

In the past, I’ve spent hours agonizing over the right shoe for an ultra marathon.  I need sufficient tread if it gets muddy, but not too much if I have to run on roads. I want enough cushioning for the hours I’ll spend on my feet, but not too much that I loose the sensation of the trail or I roll an ankle when descending on technical terrain.  There is no perfect shoe - but the one you find most comfortable for your regular long runs.  You have to go with what you know and trust.

Best Distance Running Shoes - All Out Rush + Fuse 

Merrell All Out Rush running shoe

Merrell All Out Rush women's road running shoe

Road to Trail training

With 90% of the world’s population living in an urban city, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to run along roads before you reach your favorite trail. Which is why road to trail shoes, such as the All Out Fuse or Mix Master Move provide that perfect compromise - cushioning for the road combined with enough tread to cope with the trail.

Best Transition Running ShoesBare Access 3 + All Out Fuse + Mix Master Move

  • Mac Murphey

    I am an ultra runner and completed a 50 mile trail race in the Glove. Probably the best shoe I ever owned, and the only injury I received was a bruised foot. Thankfully, the Glove II has a strike plate and I have not has a single issue yet. Thank you Merrell, Love your products.

  • Bren

    I’ve run a few races ranging from 5k to 50 miles in the past couple of years. The overall best experience I had was a trail 50k in Trail Gloves. Though my legs were beat, I did not have any feet issues. A few month after that I ran another trail 50k in a different pair of shoes and had horrible blistering problems. Generally speaking, I’ve had my most enjoyable running experiences in Merrells. There are other shoes I will wear for training, but experience has taught me that a properly fit pair of Trail Gloves take care of my feet best.


Tobias Mews

Trail Running, Ultramarathons, Triathlons, Mountain Biking, Adventure Racing
Favorite Gear
Mix Master Move, All Out Rush,
Social Media
Sign Up