To avoid injury and enjoy the trail when thru-hiking, it’s imperative to have the right gear. Outdoor gear should be durable, light-weight, and allow for adequate air flow all while being supportive and protective.
If you are going to be thru-hiking, you need to have fantastic footwear in particular. Blisters and strained muscles are certainly not a positive experience.
Poorly fitting or inappropriately designed footwear can hurt your performance and your body.
For a long time, boots were favored thru-hikers. However, hiking footwear trends have changed over the years, and people are switching to lightweight shoes, which are much faster and more comfortable.
This explains why trail runners have become one of the top choices for thru-hikers.
With trail runners, thru-hiking is a whole new experience. You’ll worry less about blisters and strained muscles. You’ll also feel lighter and move faster, so you can go further.
However, trail runners are available in a wide range of brands, models, and designs. Not all of them are good for thru-hiking. So, which are the best trail runners for thru-hiking?
In this guide, we look at the top five trail runners for thru-hiking to help you choose which is ideal for you.
Five Top-rated Trail Runners for Thru-Hiking
|#1. Salomon Men's XA Pro 3D|
Our Best Pick
|1 lb. 10.5 oz.||Medium/High||No (there’s a waterproof version)||Synthetic||12 mm|
|#2. Adidas Rockadia Trail M|
|1 lb. 7 oz.||Moderate||No||Mesh||8 mm|
|#3. Brooks Cascadia 12|
|1 lb. 8.2 oz.||High||No||Mesh||10 mm|
|#4. New Balance Leadvillev3|
|20.8 oz||Moderate||No||Synthetic||8 mm|
|#5. Saucony Peregrine 8|
|1 lb. 4 oz.||Moderate||No||Mesh||4 mm|
#1. Brooks Cascadia 12
Brooks Cascadia 12sare one of the most popular shoes among thru-hikers.
The sturdy construction of these shoescan support massive weight, including your excessively stuffed backpack.
Despite beingstiff, supportive footwear,they boast excellent cushioning and come with a heavy-duty rock plate to help you maneuverrocky terrain without hurting your feet.
The rock plate, known as a ballistic rock shield, is designed to soften the impact of stepping on loose stones and twigs.
Their tough Hex-lug patterned soles deliver ground-gripping traction, and the toe box is roomy, offering lots of space for a comfortable fit. The Pivot Point system helps to enhance stability.
The upper mesh section of Brooks Cascadia 12s has been made to stand the test of time. Despite these impressive features that enhance comfort and durability, Brooks Cascadia 12 is not without a few setbacks.
Their major disadvantage is that they are not waterproof and don’t dry as quickly as you would expect. Another notable drawback is in their breathability.
Brooks Cascadia 12 has so much of its upper fabric covered byother more robust material air flow is reduced. Your feet may get somewhat sweaty as a result. Nonetheless, they will be safe from all those jagged rocks and pokey twigs.
#2. Salomon Men’s XA Pro 3D
XA Pro 3Ds are much more than an awesome trail running shoe.
They are also highly capable of thru-hiking boasting 3D Advanced Chasis technology, which in layman’s language means an exceptionally stable, versatile footwear that can run or hike.
This shoe features the Salomon’s Quicklace system, so you don’t have to waste time tying your shoes. This shoes Contragrip soles are some of the grippiest you can find on the market.
They have just the right amount of cushioning – not too soft and not too rigid – for maximum comfort when you are cruising rocky trails.
XA Pro 3Ds sport a reinforced toe cap to enhance durability. You don’t have to worry about what would happen if your foot gets caught under jagged rocks.
In fact,the level of protection Salomon Men’s XA Pro 3Ds offer while managing to remain fairly lightweight is impressive. Note that each shoe weighs about 13 ounces, depending on the size you choose.
With solid cushioning and 3D chassis underfoot plus a reinforced toe cap, XA Pro 3Ds are just what you need for a tough hiking expedition.
Despite its great features, the XA Pro 3D has its fair share of disadvantages too.The most notable downside is that they aren’t waterproof.
Your socks may quickly become soaked from dew alone if you embark on your hiking expedition in the morning. While this will soon dry out, you certainly don’t want to start your hiking day with wet feet!
#3. New Balance Leadvillev3
If you’re looking for a trail shoe that will serve you diligently and comfortably over long distances, the New Balance Leadville v3 takes the trophy.
It’s a bold distance-oriented trail shoe that offers excellent protection, support, flexibility, and traction.
This shoe ticks all the boxes that define a footwear that will keep you safe and comfortable over the dangerous terrain that most hiking trails are known for. It has:
- Sufficient cushioning.
- Roomy toe box.
- Durable construction.
The Leadville V3 features a flexible and breathable mesh cover on almost all of its surface.
It uses synthetic overlays to enhance its durability, structure, and upper support. The prominent overlay also serves as a toe bumper.
This shoe comes with a seamless sock liner, which is odor-resistant and offers extra step-in comfort and fit.
It seems that New Balance is also aware of the fact that hikers abhor foot binding, hence the ample toe boxon the Leadville V3.
This is in addition to a generous amount of underfoot protection courtesyof ample firm cushioning.The shoe also feels very stable, offering somewhat better technical abilities than other trail runners in its class.
The most notable setback of Leadvillev3 is that it is somewhat heavier than many other trail shoes designed for long-distance trails. It’s also not waterproof.
#4. Saucony Peregrine 8
Saucony Peregrine 8 is another trail-running shoe that has immense hiking capabilities.
This can be mainly attributed to its aggressive tread design, lightweight, and ample 6mm lugs, which have an impressive bite.
These features, coupled with a sufficiently cushioned midsole, deliver maximum comfort for long-distance trails. The Peregrine also boasts better traction than most trail-running shoes in its class.
In fact, the rubber of its sole was developed explicitly for boating. It delivers exceptional traction on wet surfaces.
Moreover, the soft rubber tread goes beyond the shoe edges, providing a remarkable claw-like grip even on sloping terrains.
If you have narrow feet, this shoe may be a great choice for you, thanks to its tight fit in the toe box.
However, if you usually carry a heavy load in your hiking expeditions, the Peregrine 8 may not be a good choice for you. It is not as stable and comfortable under a heavy load.
This shoe has an impressively breathable upper mesh making it ideal for trekking in hot weather.
However, this also means it may not be a great choice for hiking in cold weather. The thin material may leave you with cold toes.
While Saucony Peregrine 8 provides minimal protection against the elements, it boasts a substantial band of protective, malleable rubber along the edge of the upper shoe. This protective band helps to keep your feet safe from debris.
Besides the lack of protection from elements, another notable disadvantage of this shoe is that it ’s not very durable.
Nonetheless, it’s an awesome trail runner for day hikes, especially if you don’t mind much about ankle support.
#5. Adidas Rockadia Trail M
If you are looking for the best budget trail runners for thru-hiking, you might want to look at what Adidas Rockadia has to offer.
These shoes are designed to provide agile off-road performance in a light, comfy package.
Rockadia features air mesh in the upper portion of its design for ventilation. This upper mesh also sports special synthetic overlays for extra support. Its thick foam cushioning offers pleasant comfort while scaling rocky hiking terrains.
A textile lining that has been designed to complement the thick foam adds additional comfort. The Rockadia M Trail is also equipped with an outsole unit that consists of ADIWEAR.
Simply defined, ADIWEAR is a rubber compound usually used in modern sports footwear to hold on to the ground firmly.
That means the Rockadia M Trail delivers a strong, secure grip even on difficult terrains. Despite its great attributes and affordability, the Rockadiadoes have a few issues.
One major setback is that this shoe isquite heavy and can really drag you down when scaling those rolling terrains in your hiking expeditions.
Another disadvantage of Rockadia is that the material used in making the shoe tends to soak water. This, when combined with the shoes relatively heavy weight, can be somewhat frustrating.
Therefore, if you will be trekking in wet and muddy terrains, this shoe may not work well for you, and you may be better off with another option.
Nonetheless, if you are just starting your quest into thru-hiking, these shoes are a great choice for beginners, thanks to their competitive price yet high quality.
Wrapping it up: The best trail runners for thru-hiking
Selecting the right footwear is essential to a comfortable and successfulthru-hike. Thru-hiking shoes should be lightweight, supportive, strong, and at least water resistant.
We would recommend Salomon XA Pro 3D as it has most of the defining features of a perfect trail runner for thru-hiking thanks to is lightweight, aggressive build, and supportive fit.
However, if it doesn’t fit your specific needs, the other four trail runners detailed here are also excellent choices. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, for example, you might try the Adidas Rockadia Trail M.