testing hiking shoes in the mountains of Alaska

Best Trail Runner Hiking Shoes Comparison Table

Hiking Shoes Price ($) Weight (oz) Heel Stack (mm) Drop (mm)
HOKA Speedgoat 5 155 10.3 33 4
Altra Lone Peak 7 150 11 25 0
HOKA Challenger 7 145 8.9 31 4
Saucony Peregrine 13 140 9 28 4
Brooks Cascadia 16 130 10.5 20 8
Salomon Thundercross 140 11.1 31 4

various trail running shoes laid out to show tread and upper

Full Reviews: Best Trail Running Shoes For Hiking

Best Hiking Shoes – Staff Pick

HOKA Speedgoat 5

HOKA Speedgoat 5 is the trail runner we love most! We find it to be very comfortable and grippy in all situations, and the fifth edition is a big improvement over the fourth, making it lighter and more breathable. Alan and Jaeger were both hiking in Speedgoats as their trail running shoes of choice for going over snowy passes on the Wonderland Trail in 2022. Read more in our full-length HOKA Speedgoat 5 Review.

  • Price: $155
  • M’ Weight: 10.3 oz | W’s Weight: 8.5 oz
  • Heel-Forefoot-Drop: M’s 33-29-4 | W’s 31-27-4
  • Lugs: 5 mm | Rockplate: No
  • Width: Average | Overall Fit: True to size
  • Wide Sizes Available: yes
  • On Trail/Off trail? Either
  • Pros: Comfortable. Great Traction. Very cushioned. Breathable. Very grippy.
  • Cons: Might be too much cushion for some.

Construction & Features

With a heel stack height >30, this is the tallest and most cushioned pair of trail running hiking shoes on our list, but aside from the excellent comfort that it provides, you would hardly notice it to be thick and clunky. Rather, we find walking in it to be pleasant, and that our steps are accurate and precise.

Speedgoats have a 4mm drop, which we find to be a sweet spot. Adding to the comfort is a widened toe box , though the entire footbed is narrower than Altra Lone Peak’s, so those with average width feet won’t slosh around as much in technical terrain.

The tread might be our favorite part of this trail runner. 5mm of Vibram Megagrip with traction lugs do an excellent job on dirt, rock, mud, grass, and anything else you might walk on. We rarely ever slip or slide when wearing Speedgoats.

Our only complaint is that the tread wears out a bit faster than average, and worn tread is the most likely reason you would need to replace a pair. We expect this trail running shoe to last a few hundred miles, less if you’re constantly on scratchy/rocky terrain.

As hiking shoes go, the mesh upper is very comfortable, quick drying, breathable, and doesn’t rub or chafe at all. The toe cap is reinforced and has yet to fail us. The laces are simple, but seem to grip themselves well and never come undone. We love the extended heel tab, which makes sliding in and out a breeze.


HOKA Speedgoat 5’s are an incredible, effective, comfortable trail runner, at home on or off the trail, no matter how gnarly the terrain.

Best Hiking Shoes – Thru-Hiker Favorite

Altra Lone Peak 7

The Altra Lone Peak 7 has long been the most popular trail runner on the PCT thanks to its durability, width, and comfort. And we take thru-hiker gear endorsements very seriously.

Of course this trail running shoe is comfortable and grippy, but Lone Peak’s secret sauce is the famous extra wide toe box. Over the course of a long day of hiking, the forefoot and toes tend to swell and enlarge slightly, which the Lone Peaks accommodate perfectly with the natural foot shape.

  • Price: $150
  • M’s Weight: 11.0 oz | W’s Weight: 9.2 oz
  • Heel-Forefoot-Drop: M’s 25-25-0 | W’s 25-25-0
  • Lugs: 5 mm | Rockplate: Yes
  • Width: Average (V7 is narrower) | Overall Fit: True to size
  • Wide Sizes Available: Yes
  • On Trail/Off trail? Either, but prefers on trail.
  • Pros: Zero drop. Wide toe box. Most popular on PCT. Great traction. Long Lasting. Rockplate.
  • Cons: Zero drop. Light cushion. A bit sloppy on technical terrain.

Construction & Features

As hiking shoes go, Lone Peak has previously been known to run wide. However, Altra has tamped the width down slightly from its hay day, so people without wide feet can enjoy it more securely without the sense that they’re sloshing about. And if you do have wide feet, purchase the wide width size.

The Altra Lone Peak is also a zero drop shoe, which can be divisive with an equal heel/forefoot stack height of 25mm. Walking in zero drop can feel a bit odd at first as it increases activation of the calf and along the Achilles, but we find the transition for hikers is easier than for runners, and that most people quickly get used to it.

We prefer it when going downhill or on flats, but for steep uphill, a bit of drop is preferably. As trail running shoes go, it has a fairly light amount of cushioning, but the rock plate and sturdy midsole helps provide extra defense.

This is a trail runner that is comfy enough for long days on hard packed trail, yet responsive enough for scrambling or boulder hopping. These trail runners are comfortable out of the box, with enough support to be ready for long days immediately.

Altra’s are another shoe with a famously excellent tread. Theirs is called MaxTrac, and it has aggressive, 5mm lugs in a chevron pattern, perfect for gripping on slanted, slippery terrain. Perhaps because of the tread and thick midsole, this is the heaviest trail runner on our list, though on average only by one ounce per shoe.

Like most hiking shoes we recommend, it has a comfy, quick drying, breathable mesh upper with a reinforced toe cap. Altra builds in a velcro attachment point, which is nice if you like wearing gaiters.


All in all, the Altra Lone Peak is a time-tested, thru-hiker approved trail runner, largely the same as it’s always been, only slightly narrower. We’re happy to continue endorsing it on this list.

Best Hiking Shoes – On Trail Performance

HOKA Challenger 7

Alan has previously described the Hoka Challenger 7 as the Goldilocks of trail running shoes for hiking. This is because it’s perfectly cushioned, lightweight, durable, long lasting, and such a comfortable and well-rounded pair of hiking shoes. Read more in our comprehensive HOKA Challenger 7 Review.

  • Price: $145
  • M’s Weight: 8.9 oz | W’s Weight: 7.3 oz
  • Heel-Forefoot-Drop: M’s 31-26-4 | W’s 29-24-4
  • Lugs: 4 mm | Rockplate: No
  • Width: Average | Overall Fit: True to size
  • Wide Sizes Available: Yes
  • On Trail/Off trail? On Trail
  • Pros: Lightweight. Perfectly cushioned. Wide toe box. Excellent on trail.
  • Cons: Modest traction.

Construction & Features

We would describe the cushion as solid and comfy, large but never too large to get in the way. It’s basically our dream cushion, perfect all-around. If we could switch every other pair of trail running shoes’ cushion out for Challenger 7’s, we probably would.

Compared to other trail runners on our list, Challenger 7 has a slightly less aggressive tread and with 4mm, instead of 5mm lugs, and flat spots under the midfoot for improved energy return. But it’s still incredibly effective and more than grippy enough for crushing long mileage days on most trails. A

dding to that is its low total weight per shoe. Lighter trail runners, even if only by one ounce, help hikers walk faster.

Like its more aggressive sibling the Speedgoat, Challenger 7 uses a quick drying, super breathable mesh with a reinforced toe cap. It meets and exceeds our highest expectations in terms of comfort and durability.

Plus, we love the extended heel tab for ease of on/off. Taking off the ol’ hiking shoes to let your feet breath during lunch is highly recommended.

Fit is fairly straight down the middle as trail running shoes go, and it includes a wide toe box which we love. Wide sizes are also available.


The Challenger 7 is an exceptionally great trail runner for hiking on most trails, and we feel it is the hypothetical best pair of hiking shoes for the typical hiker on a typical hike.

Most Well-Rounded Hiking Shoes

Saucony Peregrine 13

We’re excited to recommend the Saucony Peregrine 13 for hiking and backpacking as the best option if you dislike the cushiness of HOKA or the zero drop of Altra. This trail runner builds on a legacy of excellence, and is a great all-around model, and is traditional/standard/as expected across the board. Learn more in our full-length Saucony Peregrine 13 Review.

  • Price: $140
  • M’s Weight: 9 oz | W’s Weight: 8 oz
  • Heel-Forefoot-Drop: M’s 28-24-4 | W’s 28-24-4
  • Lugs: 5 mm | Rockplate: Yes
  • Width: Slightly Narrow | Overall Fit: True
  • Wide Sizes Available: Yes
  • On Trail/Off trail? Both
  • Pros: Lightweight. Great traction. Rockplate. Durable. Splash resistant. Traditional fit, drop, cushion, toe box width.
  • Cons: Tightly woven upper isn’t the most breathable. Heel cup doesn’t have the best hold.

Construction & Features

At only 9 oz Suacony Peregrine 13 is on the lighter weight end of hiking shoes, which helps you move faster and more efficiently. It has an average height heel stack and cushion level with a very slight drop of 4mm (our preferred sweet spot).

It’s beefed up with a rock plate too, so we feel this trail runner should be fairly comfortable on rocky trails. The toe box is slightly wide, but fairly standard. This reviewer has narrow heels, and we find that the heel cup does not lock us down perfectly and we have room to spare in that department. A bit more cushion here would have been nice, however, anyone with average or wide heels should be fine.

The bottom tread is very grippy, and has a very potent chevron pattern with 5mm tread. The upper mesh is woven tightly to offer additional durability as well as splash protection, but that also makes it warmer and less breathable than a more open knit or meshy weave. The entire lower half is reinforced with protective mesh for added durability against scrapes. We expect this to be a longer-than-average-lasting pair of trail running shoes.


Saucony Peregrine 13 are a well-made and well-rounded, great overall pair of trail runners. From the fit to the cushion to the feature set, they take a middle-of the road approach in all aspects which makes them universally appealing. We wish it had a more cushioned/lock-in heel cup, and more breathability on the mesh uppers. Choose if you dislike the hyper-cushioning of HOKA or the zero drop/extra wide toe box of Altra.

Best Hiking Shoes – Value

Brooks Cascadia 16

As the name implies, Brooks Cascadia 16 has long been a player when considering which trail runners to hike in. And yet it is also a great buy! At $130, the 16 is the least expensive trail running shoes for hiking on our list. Plus, it’s the lightest weight pair of Cascadias to-date.

  • Price: $130
  • M’s Weight: 10.5 oz | W’s Weight: 8.9 oz
  • Heel-Forefoot-Drop: M’s 20-12-8 | W’s 20-12-8
  • Lugs: 5 mm | Rockplate: Yes
  • Width: Slightly narrow | Overall Fit: True
  • Wide Sizes Available: Yes
  • On Trail/Off trail? Both
  • Pros: Favorable price. Great traction. Rockplate. Durable. Rugged.
  • Cons: Light on cushion. Stiff. Requires break in.

Construction & Features

Architecturally, this is a burly shoe. It has great traction with 5mm lugs that work on everything, a rock shield, and thick, stiff midsoles that help compensate for the minimal cushioning. To conjure an equivalent, we think it is fairly similar to the Altra Lone Peak style of shoe, only with an 8mm drop and less wide of a toe box.

This is a great pair of hiking shoes to try next if you like Lone Peak, but disliked zero drop or found it to be too wide.

Adding to the beastliness is its TPU coated mesh siding and the protective toe box. This adds durability and prevents snags, scrapes, and scratches, but reduces breathability and comfort. Cascadia is actually more like a lite-duty hiking shoe than a trail runner in that way.

Despite the protective midsole, we ding Cascadia for under-utilizing cushion. The heel stack is only at 20 mm to the forefoot’ 12 mm. That gives it a fairly typical 8mm drop, though users report it feels like less drop than it reads.

While that might matter more for stability, security, and ground feel when running, for the purposes of hiking, that’s just a bit minimal given contemporary cushion preferences for trail running shoes.


In totality, this is a rugged pair of hiking shoes, and a very durable model with great traction, stability, and a true legacy on the trail runner scene.

Best Hiking Shoes – Traction

Salomon Thundercross

Enjoy exceptional traction and comfort in this fully cushioned trail running shoe with aggressive 5mm rubber lugs. With zero break-in required, Thundercross’s outsole delivers best-in-class grip to hikers and runners alike on steep and/or slippery terrain. Read more in our full-length Salomon Thundercross Review.

  • Price: $140
  • M’ Weight: 11.1 oz | W’s Weight: 8.6 oz
  • Heel-Forefoot-Drop: 31-27-4
  • Lugs: 5 mm | Rockplate: No
  • Width: Average trending narrow | Overall Fit: True to size
  • Wide Sizes Available: No
  • On Trail/Off trail/Road: Yes/Definitely/No
  • Pros: Exceptional best-in-class traction. No break-in period/comfy out of the box. Energy return foam. Full cushion. Good value. Quick/easy on/off. Protective rand on entire forefoot and side foot.
  • Cons: Quicklace™ system is less comfortable than traditional laces when worn tight. Lots of non-breathable surface area on upper.

Construction & Features

What an interesting upper. The tightly woven fabric above the forefoot continues up the midfoot to create a collar. The QuickLace system (cinch with one pull) is quick to operate and tucks into the collar, but the narrow cordage can create a pressure point at the ankle when fully tightened. Plasticy reinforcements are added to the side for structure and to hold pressure from the laces. A full coverage rand protects the front and side of the foot.

With a 31mm energyFOAM midsole, the Thundercross deliver a comfy ride to runners and hikers alike. We would describe it as full-cushion. There is a 4mm drop between heel and forefoot, offering a universal, well balanced foot angle.

The outsole is decked out in aggressive and extremely grippy 5mm lugs that perform well on all types of difficult terrain including rock, mud, dirt, and most importantly, steep slopes. This shoe is our current go-to wherever traction is key.

Fit-wise, we would describe this shoe as true to size length, standard width midfoot, with a slightly wide forefoot and narrow heel.


Choose the Thundercross for running and hiking confidently on steep terrain when traction is paramount, but all-day comfort still matters. Thanks to the aggressive lugs, standard fit, full-cushion midsole, and near-universally appealing 4mm drop, almost anyone can find what they’re looking for in this shoe. Whether or not you love the QuickLace system, we’re confident that you’ll love end result, which is a great all-around pair of trail runners.

hoka challenger hiking shoes set down on a rock

Pro Tips and Buyer Info for Hiking in Trail Runners

Why are trail runners better than boots for hiking and backpacking?

Trail running shoes for hiking are better than boots for the following reasons:

  1. They are significantly lighter weight, which makes each stride less taxing, allowing the wearer to hike faster and more efficiently. 
  2. Trail runners have grippier outsoles and lugs for better traction.
  3. They are comfier, more breathable, and far less likely to cause blisters.
  4. Used as hiking shoes, trail runners are less rigid and give better surface feedback, which increases the accuracy, mobility, stability, and balance of your footfalls, which reduces likelihood of sprain.
  5. Over time, wearing low top trail running shoes helps to increase the strength of your ankles, eliminating the need for high tops and reducing the likelihood of a future sprain.
  6. Lastly, they also provide everything you need to start trail running, if you so choose! It’s great training for hiking season!

Why do we prefer trail running shoes that are not waterproof?

In almost all hiking scenarios, even most wet, rainy, and cold ones, we prefer hiking in traditional mesh trail runners, rather than boots, waterproof hiking shoes, or even waterproof trail running shoes. This is because waterproof shoes are much warmer, and significantly less breathable than mesh, which causes heat build up and foot sweat.

This in turn leads to an increased likelihood to blister, especially in conditions that should be dry and pleasant.

Over the course of a backpacking trip, we would rather get wet and dry off, then stay damp the whole time. It is a marketing ploy from hiking shoe brands to convince people they need waterproof shoes to hike. There are some situations, usually involving snow where we will wear waterproof shoes, but they are few and far between.

wearing hoka speed goat 5 shoes on rock

Why do we like trail runners with wide toe boxes?

Over the course of a long day of hiking, through repeated footfall impacts, the forefoot will start to swell and the toes will expand and spread apart slightly. For this, it is immensely helpful and significantly more comfortable to have trail running shoes with a wide toe box, because it prevents discomfort at the end of the day when you need it most.

However, wide to boxes aren’t license for a sloppy midfoot or heal cup, so it’s important that you find a trail runner that fits and enhances in this way, and is not just a wide loose shoe.

What is heel/forefoot stack height and what does drop mean?

Let’s go over some of the basic stats for hiking shoes, which may be foreign to readers. Heel-to-toe drop and stack height, both of which are measured in millimeters. Heel-to-toe drop, or drop, refers to the difference between the height of your heel and the height of your toe.

Basically, a zero or low drop shoe encourages the use of more calf and Achilles engagement, taking pressure away from your knees.

On the other hand, higher drop hiking shoes encourage a rearfoot strike, which may alleviate any Achilles pain or strain. A trail running shoe’s stack height refers to the number of millimeters it elevates your feet from the ground.

Higher stack heights will provide more plush and comfort, while lower stack heights will help the user feel more secure and close to the ground. The other stats we’ve provided, such as comfort, off-trail use, traction, and more are all self-explanatory.

Should you wear gaiters with your trail running shoes?

Nobody on the Adventure Alan staff are super keen on gaiters. We tend to hike in pants, and find that based on decades of backpacking experience, debris rarely enters our shoes, and when it does, it’s trivially easy to get rid of it. For 95% of hiking we don’t wear gaiters.

But for some conditions, like snow, sand, or loose gravelly scree fields, they can come in very handy. Shop gaiters for trail running shoes at REI.

More Reading

How to Choose the Right Hiking Shoes | Everything You Need to Know Which covers, the Myth of Ankle Support, Wide vs Narrow Footbox, Zero Drop Shoes, High vs Low Stack…


Stepping into the right shoe drastically changes life on the trail, whether you struggle with blisters, foot pain, or general fatigue. Here at Adventure Alan we are huge fans of efficient and lightweight shoes that still provide adequate comfort and traction for longer trips. However, we hope with this range of options you find the fit that best suits your needs.