GOLDEN LEAF HALF MARATHON, ASPEN, CO.
This rolling 13.1-mile race from Snowmass ski resort to the historic town of Aspen is typically held when the aspen trees are turning from green to golden yellow. After a steep 2-mile ascent, the Golden Leaf Half Marathon winds 11 miles on single track dirt trails to the finish.
Recommended Trail Shoe:Saucony Peregrine 10, $120
This versatile, all-around trail shoe has the comfort and smoothness of a road running shoe with just the right mix of cushioning, traction and protection. It’s ideal for smooth, rolling dirt paths, moderately technical routes with some rocks, roots, gravel and other obstacles and sloppy trails with a lot of mud and moisture.
– Weights: 10.7 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.3 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (22mm heel, 18mm forefoot)
– Date: Sept. 19, 2020
– Website: Golden Leaf Half Marathon
MOAB TRAIL MARATHON, MOAB, UT.
This unforgettable course sends runners through some of the world's most scenic and unique red rock landscapes. The Moab Trail Marathon course includes sections of smooth slick rock faces, loose sand and dirt, and hard-packed gravel roads.
Recommended Trail Shoe:Hoka One One Speedgoat 4, $145
The Speedgoat 4 features aggressive, Vibram Megagrip sticky rubber outsole lugs, loads of luscious cushioning in the midsole and Hoka’s noteworthy rockered geometry that creates a rolling sensation. This year’s edition has been fine-tuned with a more breathable upper, a springier midsole foam compound and a more spacious fit in the forefoot.
– Weights: 10.8 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.3 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (32mm heel, 28mm forefoot)
– Dates: Nov. 7-8, 2020
– Website: moabtrailmarathon.com
7 SISTERS TRAIL RACE, AMHERST, MASS.
A 12-mile out-and-back race over technical, singletrack terrain, the 7 Sisters Trail Race is one of the most challenging events in New England. The 7 Sisters Trail Race includes 3,500 feet of elevation gain and a variety of surfaces, including big rocks, loose dirt and gravel.
Recommended Trail Shoe:Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger, $130
A stripped down upper delivers a fast feel, while Nike React foam provides a smooth ride. Its ultra-lightweight design delivers durability, breathability and drainage on the varying terrain of the trails.
Weights: 8.5 ounces (men’s size 9); 7.4 oz. (women’s size 7)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (24mm heel, 20mm forefoot)
Date: May 2, 2020
THE DIPSEA, MILL VALLEY, CALIF.
Considered the oldest trail running race in the world, the Dipsea is a scenic and challenging 7.4-mile race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. It includes a 672-step historic wooden staircase, steep downhills, lots of poison oak to avoid and a spectacular finish on the beach.
Recommended Trail Shoe:Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Trail 36, $130
A lightweight shoe with all the comfort and performance of a road running model, the Pegasus Trail 36 is ideal for smooth trails and road-to-trail versatility. It’s amply cushioned, has sufficient traction and just enough protection for moderately technical trails.
– Weights: 9.5 ounces (men’s size 9); 7.9 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (28mm heel, 18mm forefoot)
– Dates: June 12, 2020
– Website: Dipsea.org
LOON MOUNTAIN RACE, LINCOLN, N.H.
The Loon Mountain Race is a challenging 6.6-mile race that that sends runners straight up the summer ski slopes of Loon Mountain. It features the ridiculous steep, 40 percent incline of the Upper Walking Boss trail.
Recommended Trail Shoe:Altra King MT 2, $140
This lightweight, low-to-the-ground shoe features a toothy, ground-gripping outsole geared for covering wet, sloppy and steep terrain with aplomb. As with every Altra model, the King MT 2 was designed with a level (or “zero-drop” platform) and a foot-shaped toe box so the foot can move naturally just as if you were barefoot.
– Weights: 8.7 ounces (men’s size 9); 7.3 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 0mm (19mm heel, 19mm forefoot)
– Date: July 12, 2020
– Website: loonmountainrace.com
MOUNT MARATHON RACE, SEWARD, ALASKA
This historic holiday race might be the hardest 5K in the U.S. It starts in the seaside town of Seward and sends runners up a grueling, 3,000-foot climb on a dangerous course with loose gravel and rock and steep cliffs. People are badly injured every year at the Mount Marathon Race and one runner tragically disappeared a few years ago.
Recommended Trail Shoe:Salomon Speedcross 5, $130
A stable, snug-fitting shoe with aggressive lugs, the Speedcross 5 is built for fast, agile maneuvering over unpredictable terrain. It has an energetic midsole foam, a one-pull lacing system and durable, protective upper to keep your feet safe and secure.
– Weights: 11.2 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.7 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (30mm heel, 20mm forefoot)
– Date: July 4, 2020
– Website: mmr.seward.com
COUGAR MOUNTAIN TRAIL RUN, BELLEVIEW, WASH.
This series of summer trail races are held at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, a 3,100-acre trail running wonderland near Seattle. Runners can tackle a variety of races distances includes thick foliage, waterfalls, bubbling creeks, old mine shafts, wooden footbridges, lush fern undergrowth, and massive glacial boulders.
Recommended Trail Shoe:On Cloudventure Waterproof, $170
The Cloudventure Waterproof is the lightweight, well-cushioned off-road shoe that lets you laugh in the face of the elements. Even with uncompromising protection against moisture and trail debris, the Cloudventure Waterproof maintains flexibility and breathability so wet conditions won't dampen your pace.
– Weights: 12.5 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.8 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (25mm heel, 19mm forefoot)
– Dates: June 13, July 11, Aug 8
– Website: cougar.seattlerunningclub.org
JAY PEAK RUNNING FESTIVAL, JAY PEAK, VT.
The Jay Peak Trail Running Festival features seven races for all abilities from 5K to 53K, this trail running festival offers something for everyone. The races feature a mix of rolling dirt trails and a few steep climbs and descents all set against the backdrop of a fun, family weekend in the mountains.
Recommended Trail Shoe: New Balance Summit Unknown, $110
These trail running shoes are precise, aggressive and ready to conquer dirt and rocky roots that wind through the winds and climb up and down mountains. They’re light and nimble, but have ample protection (including a forefoot rock plate) to keep your feet safe.
– Weights: 8.7 ounces (men’s size 9); 7.2 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (27mm heel, 17mm forefoot)
– Dates: Sept. 5-6, 2020
– Website: Jaypeaktrailrun.com
RUN THE RUT, BIG SKY, MONT.
This hard-core event features several races distances from 11K to 50K, plus a gnarly Vertical K ascent. The races of Run the Rut take place on classic Montana mountain terrain, mostly on singletrack dirt trails and rugged, rocky routes.
Recommended Trail Shoe:New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v5, $135
With a cushy and stable Fresh Foam X midsole and a grippy, Vibram Megagrip outsole, the reconfigured Hierro can tackle moderate to intense terrain with ease. The updated version has a soft, gusseted tongue, an improved durable, mesh TPU-coated upper and a more secure heel that helps ensure a locked-down fit.
– Weights: 11.3 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.4 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (32mm heel, 24mm forefoot)
– Dates: Sept. 4-6, 2020
– Website: Runtherut.com
XTERRA TRAIL RUN WORLD, OAHU, HAWAII
The Xterra Trail Run Worlds, which includes 5K, 10K and 21K distances, are held on lush singletrack trails at pristine Kualoa Ranch on Oahu’s northeast shore. You might recognize the venue from its cameo appearances in numerous movies, including Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Mighty Joe Young, Godzilla and Jumanji.
Recommended Trail Shoe:Brooks Cascadia 14, $130
A stable, secure trail running, the Cascadia 14 is extremely comfortable, agile and versatile. It has a durable, breathable upper, a cushy interior and a sticky rubber outsole tread that provides traction on wet and dry surfaces.
– Weights: 10.9 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.6 oz. (women’s size 7)
– Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (26mm heel, 18mm forefoot)
– Date: Dec. 6, 2020
– Website: xterraplanet.com/trailrunworlds
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BRIAN METZLER
Brian Metzler is the author of “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes” (2019, VeloPress). He has run races at every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher and occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado.
He's the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine, is a former senior editor at Running Times and editor in chief at Competitor Magazine. He's the author of “Running Colorado's Front Range” and the co-author of “Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger Healthier Running” and “Run Like a Champion: An Olympian's Approach for Every Runner.”
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