Ready to hit the trails? Here are some of this year’s top trail runners of 2021 that will have you heading to the mountains to conquer every terrain!

Photos: Graham McKerrell.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

adidas
Men’s Terrex Two Ultra Primeblue Trail

4.8/5 Stars | 320 g | 6 mm Drop | $250 CAD
These shoes are just plain comfortable! The mesh upper hugs your foot to just below the ankle without restricting movement, giving the shoe a fast, lightweight feel. The lugged outsole gave me greater confidence on muddy trails and the cushioning allowed me to run my long runs a bit faster without hurting my quads as much. A supportive yet light feeling trail runner!

Adam Campbell | Canmore, AB
Lawyer, endurance athlete happy in the mountains on foot, bike, rock and skis.

2021 Trail Running Shoe


adidas
Women’s Terrex Agravic TR Gore-Tex Trail

4/5 Stars | 290 g | 7 mm Drop | $160 CAD
Rugged terrain awaits you in the adidas Terrex Agravic. The heavy duty sole and GORE-TEX upper will protect your feet from gnarly trails and intense weather. The durability is at the expense of increased weight, making the shoe a good choice for mileage runs. Lace up and find your next trail run adventure.

Sabrina Wilkie | Surrey, B.C.
Physiotherapist, Mom of three and winner of the 2016 Victoria Marathon.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

ALTRA
Men’s OLYMPUS 4

4/5 Stars | 329 g | 0 mm Drop | $210 CAD
Tough enough to handle long days on all terrain, but smooth enough to get you there in comfort, this revamped trail crusher will make you feel like you’re in the shoe equivalent of a Hummer. Lighter than its predecessor but boasting an aggressive Vibram outsole and premium cushioning, the ride is surprisingly responsive. With a stack height of 33 mm, there’s plenty of protection for whatever the day throws at you. The fit is roomy and luxurious.

Keith Bradford | Calgary, AB
Elite Masters runner with a passion for road racing, run coach and crisis communications consultant who has worked with athletes at multiple world cups, world championships and Olympic Games.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

ALTRA
Women’s TIMP 3

5/5 Stars | 253 g | 0 mm Drop | $190 CAD
When I first put on the Altra Women’s Timp 3 I immediately texted Altra Sponsored Runner Kara Goucher to tell her this was the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve put on out of the box. Heading out to run in these they did not disappoint. These shoes feel light underfoot while providing exceptional stability. I am looking forward to many more recovery runs in these shoes up at the cottage and on the Toronto trails.

Sasha Gollish | Toronto, ON
2015 bronze medallist, Pan Am Games, she runs anything from the roads to the trails at a variety of distances.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Arc’teryx
Men’sNorvan SL2

4/5 Stars | 170 g | 7 mm Drop | $180 CAD
Minimum material, maximum output. A barely-there upper that is light, breathable, comfortably snug with a lacing system that negates the collection of trail debris while running. The Norvan sheds water, dries fast and handles changing trail conditions handily and heartily. That lightweight upper over an equally light yet solid Vibram “megagrip” outsole provides trail traction as well as grip on and protection from rocks. The Norvan SL2 stacks up well against any trail shoe I have ever run in.

Pete Estabrooks | Calgary, AB
One of Canada’s foremost fitness experts, ultrarunner and coach, happiest when running in the mountains.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Arc’teryx
Women’s Norvan SL2

4.5/5 Stars | 145 g | 7 mm Drop | $180 CAD
This is an extremely lightweight trail shoe with an incredible Vibram sole to help you climb and scramble. Designed for the climber/runner athlete, this is the lightest shoe I’ve ever trail run in, yet it’s surprisingly stable on rocky terrain. A highly packable shoe for adventuring. My only minor complaint would be the slightly loose fitting heel. If you like a lightweight, durable and hugely packable shoe, this is for you.

Catrin Jones | Victoria, B.C.
50 km, 50 mile and 6-hour Canadian record holder.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Columbia
Men’s Escape Ascent™ Trail Shoe

3.5/5 Stars | 297 g | $160 CAD
The new Columbia Trail shoes reminded me of some of their more nimble Montrail predecessors. They are firm yet flexible with lots of traction. The heel to toe drop is a bit more pronounced than some other trail shoes in the same category which works for some, but might be a bit too much for others who prefer a lower drop on technical terrain. They perform best on soft or technical trails, but not as cushioned as some prefer and have grown accustomed to on hard packed trails.

Jacob Puzey | Invermere, BC
Head coach and director of Peak Run Performance. Jacob has run and competed around the world from short races to ultramarathons, and loves helping other athletes reach new heights.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Columbia
Women’s Escape Ascent™ Trail Shoe

4/5 Stars | 233 g | $160 CAD
I was pleasantly surprised by the Columbia Escape Ascent. A lightweight trail running shoe ideal for urban and rugged trails, it was soft and flexible and adapted well to uneven terrain while providing ample stability. I really enjoyed the streamlined and nimble feel when covering rocky and undulating terrain. A well-constructed shoe with a good balance of comfort and traction, if you’re looking for a lightweight and versatile trail shoe, I would highly recommend it.

Emily Setlack | Trenton, ON
Canadian marathoner and avid trail and mountain runner.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Icebug
Men’s OutRun RB9X

4.5/5 Stars | 305 g | 7 mm Drop | $180 CAD
Icebug has created a good well rounded shoe. Tread lugs are modest and yet tacky, empowering runners to effectively stick to most surfaces without any annoying oversized protrusions collecting bits of rock.
The Upper is very durable and water resistant. Fits like a glove. Ample cushioning without ridiculous stack height. Durable, light, versatile and effective, no frills or gimmicks.

Shelby Drope | Nanaimo, B.C.
2018 Vancouver Island Road and Trail Series Champion, track and field endurance coach, trail running clinic coach.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Icebug
Women’s OutRun RB9X

4/5 Stars | 305 g | 7 mm Drop | $180 CAD
The OutRun is a great shoe for long days in the mountains with varying terrain. I’ve used it on soft dirt trails with big roots, as well as on rocky high alpine trails and it performed well in both situations. It has excellent support and while I found it somewhat stiff at first, after a few km it softens up. Great lugs for grip, and a comfortable upper and wide toe box.

Amy Puzey | Invermere, B.C.
2 x Team Canada member at the World Mountain Running championships, mother of six.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

La Sportiva
Men’s Karacal

4.5/5 Stars | 290 g | 7 mm Drop | $170 CAD
The La Sportiva Karacal is a neutral, responsive and lightweight trail running shoe. The flattened lugs on the outsole make it a versatile shoe that performs well on rocky, technical terrain as well as packed dirt and gravel trails. They have ample grip for the steep uphills and the EVA midsole provides a comfortable ride on the downhills. The quality of construction is excellent. The fit is quite snug, which I personally prefer for a mountain trail shoe but you may want to consider buying a half size larger than usual. The full-length EVA Rock-Guard does a good job of protecting my feet from sharp rocks and also provides some stiffness to the shoe.

Matt Setlack | Trenton, ON
Competitive mountain runner for 10+ years and Royal Canadian Air Force pilot.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

La Sportiva
Women’s Karacal

4.8/5 Stars | 250 g | 7 mm Drop | $170 CAD
If your goal is confidently and swiftly navigating asperous terrain, La Sportiva’s highly functional Karacal may be the superlative choice. Multidirectional crafty lugs and a full-length rock plate ensure exemplary traction and flawless protection from craggy terrain underfoot. The dual density midsole is stable without feeling overly stiff. A nicely padded heel collar, no-slip lacing and strategic overlays throughout the upper all combine to provide an exceptionally secure foothold. The wide gusseted tongue, seamless upper and roomy toe box make for a pleasant blister-free ride for longer runs.

Syl Corbett | Calgary, AB
World Cup and World Championship competitor in triathlon, duathlon, mountain running, snowshoeing and marathons. Private consultant to pro-athletes.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Merrell
Men’s Moab Flight

3.5/5 Stars | 290 g | 10 mm Drop | $150 CAD
A welcomed addition to your trail shoe arsenal the Merrell Moab Flight descends to us from Merrell’s Moab Hiking footwear collection. The shoe features a beefy FloatPRO midsole that provides ample cushion and fair protection over moderate terrain. The absence of a rock plate and a loose heel cup are two drawbacks to the shoe for technical runners looking for a robust and sturdy ride. For the majority of your trail runs this shoe fits the bill at a pleasant price point, but leave it at home when venturing out for challenging terrain.

Andrew Russell | Saanichton, B.C.
2019 Vancouver Island Race Series Champion, 2019 Finlayson Arm 50k Champion and course record holder, 2018 Finlayson Arm 28k Champion and course record holder.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Merrell
Women’s Moab Flight

5/5 Stars | 230 g | 10 mm Drop | $150 CAD
The moment I slipped on the Moab Flight shoes I wondered why I’ve been waiting to try Merrell’s for so long! They are by far one of the most cushioned trail running shoes I’ve worn. Complete with a Vibram high-performance rubber sole to keep nice and close to terrain for added stability and grip, these shoes are light, breathable, and entirely animal-free!

Mandy Gill | Vancouver, B.C.
Ultramarathon runner (road and trail), health expert and international keynote speaker, IMPACT Top Vegan Athlete.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

New Balance
Men’s Fresh Foam Hierro v6

5/5 Stars| 340 g | 8 mm Drop | $180 CAD
Okay – this shoe is a beast, in all the right ways!! I found the Hierro V6 performed exceptionally well as a road to trail transition shoe. The Fresh Foam midsole provides plenty of bounce while the Vibram outsole has just enough “bite” to grip any type of terrain. This ride will slay pretty much anything you can throw at it.

Bruce Raymer | Toronto, ON
Ottawa Marathon Champion, winner of 3 Canadian Championships, and national team member, now Toronto-based running coach and founder of www.raymerrunning.com.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

New Balance
Women’s Fresh Foam Hierro v6

4/5 Stars | 282 g | 8 mm Drop | $180 CAD
From the box straight to the trail, the Hierro V6 needed no break-in time and was both incredibly comfortable and durable. The outer is reinforced to withstand some wear and tear on the trails, and the sole makes running on rocks and roots a breeze. As a wide footed individual, the toe box has comfortably enabled me to run down several mountains with no issues, and I would definitely recommend for long distance trail runs or hikes! Fit true to size.

Rachael Mcintosh | Calgary, AB
Retired Canadian Heptathlete medalist turned trail runner, middle distance runner, hiker and outdoor enthusiast!

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Reebok
Men’s Floatride Energy 3 Adventure

5/5 Stars | $130 CAD
Reebok is better known for its road shoes, but they are moving into trail and this shoe is a great addition to the trail scene. I found the shoe to be lightweight, highly responsive, and the cushioned midsole provides excellent protection underfoot. The outsole is probably not suited to rugged mountain runs, but for non-technical trail I would highly recommend it.

Andy Reed | Canmore, AB
Sport medicine physician, mountain ultra trail runner, numerous podium finishes in mountain ultras throughout North America.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Reebok
Women’s Floatride Energy 3

4/5 Stars | $130 CAD
This road to trail shoe has it all! Offering great support on the trails with low profile lugs/outsole for dirt roads or pavement. The cushioning is amazing too but not too much that you can’t feel the trail under your foot. The upper is supportive but supple for added comfort. It’s a nice light cushioned shoe ready for your next adventure run!

Grace Hiom | Kamloops, B.C.
Race director of the Dirty Feet Trail Series, running coach and ultramarathoner.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Saucony
Men’s Endorphin Trail

5/5 Stars | 295 g | 4 mm Drop | $200 CAD
Never thought I would love a fully gusseted shoe as much as I do this shoe. This fully gusseted shoe feels like a slipper on the upper but also very solid and stable. The foot is completely supported and feels controlled even in hard cornering. The rubber and grip on these shoes is super sticky and provides amazing control and confidence on all terrains. The shoe also provides a lot of cushioning for a super comfy shoe. If you haven’t figured it out yet. I love this shoe!!!

Phil Hiom | Kamloops, B.C.
Trail runner who loves the uphills, is always researching ways to improve his running style including getting a curved treadmill to allow more focused form running.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Saucony
Women’s Endorphin Trail

4/5 Stars | 255 g | 4 mm Drop | $200 CAD
This shoe makes a statement. It’s a high-stack, foamy shoe with a 4 mm drop and a slight rocker. It fits snugly around the ankle but allows adequate room in the toe box. It’s a little too much shoe for me on technical trails, but it was great for fast running on the flowing, buffed sections.

Nicki Rehn | Calgary, AB
Ultramarathon runner, orienteer, and adventurer who loves to travel the world doing crazy races, disappear deep into the mountains, and rip up the local single-track.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Skechers
Men’s Skechers GOrun Razor Trail

4.5/5 Stars | 221 g | 4 mm Drop | $215 CAD
These Skechers WOW you straight out of the box. They are very light with a good wedge of bouncy cushioning that make you want to take them for a rip on single track trails. There is no rock plate but the ample cushioning gives plenty of protection with greater flexibility. The small triangular lugs are very grippy but start to show some wear relatively quickly. The fit is snug without being constrictive. The thin tongue might not provide enough cushioning for those that like to lace up tight. If it weren’t for the durability of the lugs I would give this shoe top marks.

Alistair Munro | Toronto, ON
Run coach for the Toronto Harriers with a love of trail and ultra-funning for the adventure, community and competition.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Skechers
Women’s GOrun Razor Trail

4/5 Stars | 187 g | 4 mm Drop | $215 CAD
Another lightweight trail shoe on the market, with sticky rubber for mixed terrain trail running. A streamline narrower upper may not work for a wider foot, but the traction is quite good considering it’s a lighter weight trail shoe. The Hyperburst midsole provides some nice cushioning without appearing or feeling bulky. Overall a good trail shoe for training or races. I found the fit to be slightly snug, so would probably go up a half size.

Catrin Jones | Victoria, B.C.
50 km, 50 mile and 6-hour Canadian record holder.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

The North Face
Men’s VECTIV Infinite

4/5 Stars | 307 g | 6 mm Drop | $220 CAD
The Vectiv Infinite is designed for long, hard days on the trail. The Infinite was impeccably comfortable, immediately. The shoe’s propulsive midsole rocker and a foot plate helped keep me rolling along the trails. They performed well on smooth buffed out single track and technical, slabby, rooty, rocky terrain.

Ian MacNairn | Canmore, AB
Professional trail and ultrarunner; two-time ultrarunning National Champion; anthropologist studying the global ultrarunning community.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

The North Face
Women’s Flight VECTIV

4.5/5 Stars | 245 g | 6 mm Drop | $270 CAD
I was beyond excited to try out the first carbon-plated trail racing shoe, and it did not disappoint! The Flight Vectiv was comfortable out of the box, with a breathable and roomy mesh and sock-like upper. I felt that it fit a half size too long in my regular size, and tapers at the toe, so runners with wide feet might have some issues getting the fit just right. The lugs aren’t overly aggressive, but plenty grippy, and TNF found a great balance here between cushion and ground feel. I could definitely see these going the ultra distance. These shoes just feel so fast that I could barely keep up to my own feet on the downhills.

Arden Young | Calgary, AB
Dentist by day, road, trail, ultrarunner all other times with a love for competition and long adventures in the mountains.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Topo Athletic
Men’s Runventure 3

4/5 Stars | 269 g | 0 mm Drop | $190 CAD
This Zero Drop Trail shoe has a super wide toe box and a forefoot rock plate to help prevent bruising from rocky trail. Water drainage ports and a soft sticky Vibram sole makes this shoe great for wet trail adventures. The heel cup fits well even on steep climbs. The shoe feels stiff underfoot with great tread pattern for loose or muddy ground. However the super wide toe box does require slight gait adjustments when running extremely rooty and rocky terrain. Great shoe for those long smooth trails and hard packed terrain.

Cal Zaryski | Calgary, AB
Professional active lifestyle coach, 9 x World XTERRA Triathlon Champion, 3 x Triathlon Canada Coach of the Year, 3 x Alberta Triathlon Coach of the Year.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Topo Athletic
Women’s Runventure 3

4/5 Stars | 269 g | 0 mm Drop | $190 CAD
The Runventure 3 is an all-around trail shoe to adventure in. Its zero drop platform provides a feeling of direct contact and connection with the ground, but was a bit too minimal for my liking. My favourite feature was the dependable sticky rubber grip of the Vibram sole when running over slick rocks and roots. This shoe hugged my foot nicely while leaving lots of room for toes to splay. The Runventure 3 may offer a different feel compared to more traditional trail shoes, but is worth hitting the trails in if you are looking for a lightweight, responsive shoe.

Jen Millar | Victoria B.C.
Competitive distance runner, BC Athletics Cross Country Masters Runner of the Year.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Vivobarefoot
Men’s Primus Trail II FG

5/5 Stars | 250 g | 0 mm Drop | $288 CAD
For my first run I took these on a 3-hour soft and flat valley run where they were very responsive and agile. On my next run I ran on the aggressive North Shore mountains where they proved brilliant at climbing and nimble for descending.
Conclusion: These are amazingly stable training shoes for building foot and lower leg strength, which I find an excellent tool for 100+ km event training.

Jed Grieve | Victoria, BC
Proud father and husband, and long time distance runner who is always working to be competitive in his age group.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Vivobarefoot
Women’s Primus Trail II FG

5/5 Stars | 250 g | 0 mm Drop | $288 CAD
Putting these shoes on – I could instantly feel they were a great balance of light weight and flexible yet strong and durable enough to withstand the tough terrain out on the trail. Running with them on I felt smooth and efficient in my stride and agile in navigating the more challenging parts of the trail. The traction and grip provided power up the hills and control on the way down. Would definitely recommend these to anyone hitting the trails from causal to more competitive runners.

Allie Bendus | Toronto, ON
Founder and Coach at Moto Athletic. Allie is a former competitive runner and now trains pro athletes in the NHL, NBA, and MLB.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Xero
Men’s Mesa Trail

4.5/5 Stars | 198 g | 0 mm Drop | $170 CAD
More mobile foot protection than shoe. Build as an alternative to running barefoot on trails, the Mesa nails it. With a 2 mm removable insole transitioning from “runner” to minimalist becomes a less injury prone process. The Mesa Trail is as close to barefoot running as you are going to find. The upper, soft, non-chafing provides a lacing system and webbing combination that holds you tight with a snug heel casing and wide toe-box. Not sloppy wide, but comfortably wide enough to let the feet free to splay to softer trail conditions or toe off rocks and roots while keeping feet secure and comfortable. The upper is housed on an incredible flexible but built tough rubber outsole. These things eat rocks and ridges for breakfast.

Pete Estabrooks | Calgary, AB
One of Canada’s foremost fitness experts, ultrarunner and coach, happiest when running in the mountains.

2021 Trail Running Shoe

Xero
Women’s Aqua X Sport

5/5 Stars | 164 g | 0 mm Drop | $180 CAD
This natural movement, barefoot shoe is an excellent choice for trail adventures that involve water. I tried it out on a trail run that took me over river rocks and through water and was impressed with the snug fit, trustworthy traction and the way the shoe quickly sheds water. Even if you aren’t a runner who trains in zero drop shoes, this shoe is perfect for those days when you are exploring, kayaking, swimming from rocks, and still want some protection and grip.

Lucy Smith | Victoria, B.C.
Elite athlete in distance running, duathlon and triathlon for over 30 years, coach and motivational speaker.


What does ‘drop’ mean?

This is the difference between the heel and the forefoot measurements, or in other words, how much your toes ‘drop’ below your heel.

Why is this important? Because a higher drop can lead to more heel striking and also transfers some strain away from the lower leg and up towards the knee. A lower drop will shift the load further down to your calf. Check with an expert, choose what feels comfortable to you and take into account your running mechanics and history of injuries. Above all – run!

Looking for road running shoes instead? If so, read what some of the top runners from across Canada had to say about nineteen of the top running shoe brands on the market.

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