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BEST TRAIL RUNNING SHOES

What are the best trail running shoes? JackRabbit trail runners share their recommendations for the rugged and smooth trails of 2021

FIND YOUR FIT ON THE TRAIL

The great thing about running is all of the different ways you can go about it. You are able to find which type of running (indoor, outdoor, trail, road, track, the list goes on) fits you best and easily tailor activity around that.

For those who want to ‘find their fit’ in trail running, this one is for you.

We share the best trail running shoes for the rugged and smooth trails of 2021.

BREAKING DOWN THE TRAIL RUNNING MYTH

Daily summits on local mountains, hitting trails to get thousands of feet of vertical gain, jumping on, off and over rocks and roots. These things are all cool, and yes are the experiences of some runners who have access and time to commit to The Trail™, however, the reality of trail running is that these experiences don’t need to be everyone’s experience nor are they a prerequisite to being considered a trail runner.

Breaking down this trail running myth is essential to entering the sport. So what is daily trail running? It’s your local trails, your local bike paths, the one-foot-long span of dirt you have in your neighborhood. It’s running up the hills in your neighborhood and conquering those local summits.

These two worlds do have one common intersection – shoes – and this is where we’ll breakdown the best trail running shoes for you.

BEST TRAIL RUNNING SHOES 2021

Altra Lone Peak 5 - What's New

ALTRA LONE PEAK

https://www.jackrabbit.com/brands/altra/lone-peak/ 

Sunrise summits on rocky and uneven trails? Sign the Altra Lone Peak up. The Lone Peak is a trail runner’s dream using Altra EGO midsole for a responsive yet soft ride and a MaxTrac™ outsole to give you that grippy and secure feel on the trail.

Find your stride in the Altra Lone Peak 5 to take on any trail. Read our official review here.

HOKA Challenger ATR 6 - Mid Blog

HOKA CHALLENGER ATR

Road shoes, meet trail shoes. Trail shoes, meet road shoes. The HOKA Challenger ATR combines the best of both shoes to make the doorstep to trail a smooth and seamless transition. All Terrain is in the name, afterall.

This neutral trail running shoe was designed with broad, closely spaced zonal lugs so you can stay in control on the trail and still have a soft landing while on the roads.

Read our HOKA Challenger ATR review here.

SAUCONY PEREGRINE

Grippy, speedy, aggressive and responsive. The Saucony Peregrine trail running shoe is ideal for those who need a tackle-anything-and-everything go-to trail shoe.

The aggressive lugs made of PWRTRAC tacky rubber make you feel secure every step on the trail as you’re flying over rocks, roots and more.

Also available in JackRabbit exclusive colors, read the rest of why we love the Saucony Peregrine here.  

MORE TRAIL

Is trail running your fit? Find the rest of your trail outdoor adventure gear and shop the best trail running shoes of the year on our carefully curated trail gear page

SHOP TRAIL RUNNING
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Altra Trail Running

ALTRA TRAIL RUNNING USA

Ditch the roads and the hit the trails in 2021 with the help of our friends over at Altra Running! The Altra Red Team athletes have compiled a list of their favorite trails to run on throughout the United States. 

If you are predominately a road or treadmill runner, trails are a great way to mix up your training and can offer a breathtaking escape from the every day pounding of the pavement. 

Check out the recommendations from the Altra Red Team as they highlight their favorite trails from each region across the United States.

TRAIL RUNNING: NORTHEAST

Great Blue Hill Trail

  • Location: Milton, MA
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 820 ft
  • Trail Map

“There are over 100 miles of trails with lots of great hills and plenty of space to explore. The Skyline trail is a favorite—it leads you to an outlook with impressive views of Boston and the Atlantic.” -Katie Kloss

Great Blue Hill Trail

Devil’s Path (East to West)

  • Location: Caskill Park (New York)
  • Distance: 21.8
  • Elevation Gain: 8,172 ft
  • Trail Map

“Devil’s Path in the Catskill Mountains is not for the faint of heart—it lives up to its name! Just over 24 miles point-to-point with close to 9,000 feet of climbing, it’s considered one of the toughest hiking trails in the Eastern US due to the rugged terrain over multiple peaks.” -Laura Kline

Devil's Path East To West Trail

TRAIL RUNNING: MIDWEST

Ice Age Trail – Holy Hill Segment

  • Location: Hartford, WI
  • Distance: 6.8 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 603 ft
  • Trail Map

“You’ll experience rolling hills as you climb through a mature forest on rocky single track. Keep your eyes up as you climb for a glimpse of the majestic Holy Hill basilica, which sits on a hill perched high above the surrounding area.” -Annie Weiss 

Ice Age Trail Holy Hill Segment

Mines of Spain 100 Loop

  • Location: Dubuque, IA
  • Distance: 20.4
  • Elevation Gain: 2,388 ft

“This route has everything from fast, flat, dirt single track, to steep, technical climbs, prairie, dense forest, creek crossings, and everything in between. The route offers stunning views of the Mississippi River, a tour through the iconic Horseshoe Bluff, an old farmstead, and the Julien Dubuque monument.” -Christine Burns 

Mines of Spain 100 Loop Trail

TRAIL RUNNING: NORTHWEST

Phelps Lake Trail

  • Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • Distance: 7.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 725 ft
  • Trail Map

“The trail is shaped like a lollypop, going up, around and back, and is about 6.5 to 7 miles long. The trail looks up to Death Canyon and you have a decent chance of seeing bears while you’re out.” -Pam Reed

Phelps Lake Trail

Mount Roothaan Trail

  • Location: Nordman, ID
  • Distance: 3.2 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,177 ft
  • Trail Map

“Along the route, you will find brilliantly colored glacier lilies, wind-blown subalpine firs, and some vociferous marmots. Once you’ve reached the top of the mountain, you’re greeted with a breathtaking view of Chimney Rock, Hunt Lake, Priest Lake, and the surrounding mountains. It’s spectacular.” -Steph Rodgers

Mount Roothaan Trail

TRAIL RUNNING: SOUTHWEST

Old Mount Baldy & Devil’s Backbone Trail

  • Location: Mount Baldy, CA
  • Distance: 13.5 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 6,269 ft
  • Trail Map

“You’ll have big sections of the trail to yourself and climb more than 6,000 feet from Mount Baldy village to the summit. You’ll enjoy wildflowers, stunning panoramic views of the Angeles National Forest, and you might even see a mountain goat or two.” -Sarah McMahon

Old Mount Baldy Trail California

Green Mountain Trail

  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Distance: 8.3 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,063 ft
  • Trail Map

“You can see the view of downtown Denver in one direction, and a view of Red Rocks in another. There are lots of wildflowers in the spring and summer and you may run into some deer if you are lucky.” -Junko Kazukawa

Green Mountain Trail Colorado

TRAIL RUNNING: SOUTH CENTRAL

Dana Peak Park Trail

  • Location: Peak Park, TX
  • Distance: 6.8 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 314 ft
  • Trail Map

“It’s a great trail for short runs, hikes, rides, or 50k-plus long runs or rides. You can stick to fast flats or take on more technical hills and climbs by hitting the various peaks. It’s really a fun place to play. In the summer you can even take a swim in the lake after your run.” -Marc Henn

Dana Peak Park Trail

Mount Kessler Loop

  • Location: Fayetteville, AK
  • Distance: 8.2 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 839 ft
  • Trail Map

“The Mount Kessler Trail System is a great representation of the Ozarks. I love the rocks, boulders, roots, the views of the Boston Mountains to the south, and downtown Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas campus to the northeast.” -Cliff Pittman

Mount Kessler Loop Trail

TRAIL RUNNING: SOUTHEAST

Sweetwater Creek Red, White and Yellow Trail

  • Location: Lithia Springs, GA
  • Distance: 7.3 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 807 ft
  • Trail Map

“Just a short drive west of Atlanta, you will be transported to stunning views over approximately 8 miles of whitewater-filled creeks, boulders, and remote forest. Additionally, this route passes the ruins of the New Manchester Mill, which was used as a filming location for The Hunger Games. This route combines the Red, White, and Yellow trails in the park and provides a pleasant change in scenery every few miles, which keeps my mind and legs engaged.” -Amanda Yu-Nguyen

Lake to Spanish Moss to Longleaf Loop

  • Location: Seven Springs, NC
  • Distance: 4.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 223 ft
  • Trail Map

“It has roots, sandy trails, and even some rocks. It also offers a little bit of climbing which is hard to find in this region. This 4-mile loop which combines a few different trails within the park offers some scenic views of the Neuse River and combines singletrack and doubletrack trails. While not overly technical, the Park is great for all ages and is perfect for running those short to mid-range distance runs.” -Justin McLamb

Sweetwater Creek Red White and Yellow Trail

Special thanks to Altra Running and the Altra Red Team for sharing their trail recommendations!

Do you have a favorite trail or hidden gem? Share it with us on social media on Facebook or Instagram

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how to trail run Trail Running Training

HOW TRAIL RUNNING WILL REVIVE YOUR RUNNING

HIT THE TRAILS

By Brian Metzler

Have you ever found yourself in a funk about running? Or feel like your training has plateaued? Or had the feeling you just don’t feel like running?

We all have!

As frustrating as those moments can be, they’re a natural part of training — especially in the dog days of summer and when we don’t have any races to focus on.

There are many ways to rejuvenate your running, but few as failsafe as trail running. Going for a trail run and implementing off-road running into your weekly regiment can work wonders for you with numerous physical, mental and emotional benefits. Here’s how …

Trail Running - good for runners

6 BENEFITS OF TRAIL RUNNING

1. Trail running is different.

The best thing about trail running is what it is not. When we’re running on the smooth and generally flat roads, we’re often concerned with the pace we’re running, the mileage we’re running and how consistent our movements are. But when we’re on the trail, those aren’t the things that matter most.

Out on the trails, the surface is always changing, so our pace, our gait and our consistency can vary greatly. Embrace those differences and the inherent challenges that trail running brings and don’t worry about your pace or even there are some sections that are so steep you might have to walk.

2. Trail running is an escape.

Let’s face it, running on the roads or bike paths of the urban or suburban grid can be tedious. But running on trails — no matter if it’s a route through a local park, along a nearby river or over a mountain pass — can be a glorious and refreshing escape. Trail running allows you to get away from the monotony (and crowded places) for an hour or two, but it also provides you with a connection to nature, different scenery, a chance to view wildflowers and exciting destinations to run to.

Running to a through a forest, reaching the summit of a peak (no matter how big or small) or running to a waterfall can be a small but exhilarating way to stimulate your running.

3. Trail running is an adventure.

Trail running can put a dose of wild into our lives. Unlike running on the roads or doing workouts prescribed on your training plan, trail running can be a full-on adventure. Some trails are decidedly harder, more remote and more inspiring than others.

If you make it a point to seek out a unique, semi-remote trail once a week, you can experience that bit of thrilling, hard-to-describe excitement that is more common to mountain biking, rock climbing and backpacking than it is to road running. 

Trail Running Colorado

4. Trail running is a great workout.

Even though you might not be doing tempo runs, intervals or even monitoring your pace, trail running can be a remarkable workout. Running on trails works different muscles groups, requires greater agility and typically involves unpredictable acute heart rate spikes than road running. There’s no question that it can build aerobic fitness, but it can also build your overall strength and endurance in ways that road running cannot. Plus, the softer surfaces of trails are easier on your body, too.

Consider doing your weekly long runs to the trails to discover an enhanced level of endurance. Or convert your 6 x 800-meter track interval session into a 6 x 3-minute hill repeat session on a moderately inclined trail for an enhanced level of fitness.

5. Trail running is fun.

As much as we all love to run, sometimes we feel like it’s a chore. That almost never happens out on the trails. Trail running has a different vibe that makes it feel less about the monotony of running. It’s more like you’re playing in the woods with your friends like you did as a kid. Checking out the views, spotting a deer, or even engaging in the shared struggled of a hard hill or a fast descent are all part of that fun vibe that can inspire you to run trails more often, plan long weekend trail running outings with friends and sign up for trail running races.

6. Trail running will light your fire.

Trail running will challenge you, inspire you and engage you in different ways. Just as there are ways to “think outside the box,” trail running is a way to “run outside the box” on a regular basis. As you become more proficient at running on trails — learning how to become more agile, carrying the right gear and knowing how to find fun, remote and scenic trails — you’ll likely find yourself enjoying it more and more.

You don’t have go far or run precarious trails in the mountains; it starts with a good pair of trail running shoes and a curious sense of adventure. It won’t take long before you’ve rejuvenated your running like never before.

SHOP WOMEN’S TRAIL RUNNING GEAR
SHOP MEN’S TRAIL RUNNING GEAR

Brian Metzler was the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine. He is the author of Kicksology: The Science, Hype, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes. (2019, VeloPress)