Fall 2012 Trail Shoe Guide
Hybrids: Best for both roads and trails
Asics Gel-Scout?$120 1 of 10
Bottom Line: ?A well-cushioned ride that feels light and nimble. The Gel-Scout performs well on dirt surfaces and on the pavement en route to your trail workout. It offers a smooth, pillowy-soft ride reminiscent of Asics's popular neutral-cushioned road models.
Brooks Adrenaline ASR 9?$115
2 of 10
Bottom Line: ?An everyday trainer for both trails and roads. The ASR9 is an all-conditions version of Brooks's popular model, the Adrenaline GTS 12. A slightly more rugged outsole keeps you upright on icy or rocky trails, and the water-resistant upper ensures dry feet.
Mizuno Wave Ascend 7?$105
3 of 10
Bottom Line: For fast running over both smooth and uneven trails. If your idea of a trail involves more crushed gravel than rocks and roots, the Ascend is a good choice. The upper feels like a road shoe, and substantial tread on the outsole grips nearly any surface.
All-Mountain: Best for rugged, steep terrain
Salomon XT Wings 3?$140 4 of 10
Bottom Line: ?A stable shoe for bigger runners on rough terrain. Stiff and firm underfoot, the XT Wings 3 offers pronation control and protection for your feet. The shoe works for runners who need support on flat, moderate terrain.
Karhu Forward Trail?$140
5 of 10
Bottom Line: ?Big-time cushioning for heel-strikers. The Forward Trail rides high and soft. Its 44.6mm heel height is the tallest of any shoe in this guide. Testers loved the traction on soft terrain, although the pointy lugs don't provide an adequate hold on slick, wet rocks.
Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail?$90
6 of 10
Bottom Line: ?For minimalists who want to tackle rugged trails. The Breatho Trail is a solid execution of a minimal off-road shoe. The outsole provides nominal protection from trail debris, while 4.5 mm lugs firmly grip anything in your path.
Racing: Best for fast-paced training
La Sportiva Vertical K?$115 7 of 10
Bottom Line: ?A race-day shoe for lightweight and efficient runners. The Vertical K is the lightest shoe we tested for this guide. At only 7.2 ounces, it's built for efficient runners who want to run fast.
Saucony Progrid Kinvara TR?$100
8 of 10
Bottom Line: ?Excellent flexibility and traction in a minimal package. Low to the ground and lightweight like the road shoe by the same name, wear-testers appreciated the Kinvara TR's breathable upper, but many noted that the shoe's fit is very narrow.
Patagonia Fore Runner RS?$110
9 of 10
Bottom Line: ?A firm ride for runners accustomed to minimal footwear. In addition to looking good, the Fore Runner RS performs well off-road. The mesh wrapping the foot prevents water from reaching your socks, but wear-testers found that it didn't breathe well on hot days.