Think security, think grip, and think lug length and you’ll have the three pillars of confidence the best mud shoes offer. Also, do not send them out on a road run. These shoes are great off-road but will not like asphalt on the way.
What to look for in a winter trail shoe
Carbon: There’s no argument carbon provides runners with more response on the harder, more uniform trails but ponder carefully if you need it for a winter outing. It’s work on stable ground and some will run faster, while some will benefit from the reduction in impact carbon provides. Yes, there’s a cost but it’s well worth the investment.
Breathability: In the same way you’d look for fabrics that breathe in t-shirts, go for materials that allow air and water vapour to escape from inside the shoe, while also allowing cooler air from outside to enter.
Weight: Of course, there’s no definitive weight in a running shoe as more than any other product, it’s very much individual. But, as a general rule, summer shoes are lighter and swifter feeling, so you’ll be thinking of shoes that weigh less than 300g for that rip roaring 10km PB. If you’re thinking long distance though, think about additional cushioning and therefore in some, but not all, additional weight, bringing the shoes into the mid-300s.
Toe box: The rocks will be there summer, or winter so look for protection in that department year-round.
Drop: There’s almost a generational gap here. Older shoe models work off an 8mm-12mm drop for a higher, more cushioned ride while many of today’s shoes come in at around 4mm-6mm for a closer to the ground, faster feel. As with any shoe advice, it’s always about what feels good personally. In theory, it’s worth progression to lower drop shoes as they do feel quicker (half the job), but it can be at a cost for your calf muscles. There are lower drops as well with 0mm replicating barefoot. The jury is out at the moment as to what is best!
Midsole: EVA, PU, TPU or Pebax are the foams of choice for most brands. All offer softness and flexibility to different degrees.
Fit: There’s the traditional lacing system of course, but the Salomon system and the Boa fit in a variety of brands including La Sportiva and Adidas do offer superb stability on rough, steep terrain. Consider the surfaces you’ll be running. Tough descents and contouring lend themselves to this new fit system.
Lug length: Summer shoes will offer less in the grip department, so lugs around 3mm at the most, while winter shoes go all the way up to 6mm and even beyond on occasion. Rubber, of course, wears quicker so longer lug length shoes need to stay strictly off-road!
Waterproofing: Can be controversial for some runners in that it used to come at a cost when breathability and weight is concerned. However, thanks to advances in technology that isn’t the case now and it’s definitely worth looking at the materials used as well as drainage options.
Best trail shoes for winter
Pros: Light as air, grippier than glue
Cons: You’d need another heavier option for
First things first: these are race shoes. And when you’re racing, you can sacrifice some things for speed. Like cushioning and protection, especially when the ground is soft. These are low on bounce (and drop, at 3mm), but exceptionally high on grip and traction.
The 8mm graphene lugs moulded on to the flexible outsole (no rock plates here) carve through slime and grip to wet rock as if it’s dry. We’re not confident that the mesh uppers would stand up to extreme abuse, but for soft fells and even cross-country, they’ll be a safe bet.
Shoes this light and focussed deserve to be kept for race day, for when every gram counts.
Weight 210g (men’s 8) | Lugs 8mm | Midsole Injected EVA | Outsole graphene-enhanced G-GRIP rubber | Men’s sizes 6-14 | Women’s sizes 4-9
Pros: Really at home for the longer runs
Cons: Maybe a little too technical for most of
These shoes – as you might expect, given the name – are not designed for Parkruns. Although there's no reason why you shouldn't use them for this, they excel on long, fast outings where comfort and traction are key, so loose gravel paths are perfect.
Packing a very aggressive tread pattern of 6mm lugs, integrated arch support, a midfoot torsion bar and a highly breathable mesh upper, they're able companions whether you're setting out to smash an FKT or just getting in some long miles over the weekend. Plus, their 8mm drop is very easy to get on with. The one thing they don't excel at is waterproofing, but we guess you can't have it all...
Weight 262g (men’s 8) | Lugs 6mm | Midsole FluidFoam midsole with a midfoot torsion bar | Outsole Full-length rubber outsole with TrailShield technology | Men’s sizes 6-16 | Women’s sizes 3-10
Pros: Protective midsole, grippy lugs
Cons: Too heavy and a tad clunky
Although not the lightest, these eye-catching shoes know how to get a wriggle on. Their Speedroll technology helps propel you through the gait cycle, PWRRUN foam isolates you from harsher surfaces, while 4.5mm lugs tear through mud. Those lugs are arranged in a way that assists downhill grip but promotes uphill progress.
The fit is sock-like, secure and comfy, and the outsole provides good traction on a variety of surfaces, from wet grass to tree root-strewn riverbanks. A 4mm drop adds to the feeling of immediacy and makes these a pair we’d lace up for quicker training runs. And if you’re not afraid of garish designs!
Weight 295g (men’s 9) | Lugs 4.5mm | Midsole PWRRUN PB Foam | Outsole ultra-grippy PWRTRAC | Men’s sizes 7-14 | Women’s sizes 3-8.5
Pros: Price. Technology
Cons: A little stiff; no women’s specific model
If you're heading anywhere hilly, these shoes deserve serious consideration. The ripstop mesh uppers and padded tongue keeping debris out of the shoes, but the heel counter is devoid of hard protection.
However, if you're considering dipping a toe in the world of fell running, for example, these are lightweight and grippy enough for the job. The 7mm lugs dig into most surfaces, and there's a real sense of connection with the ground, feeling much lower than their 8mm drop suggests. A flex groove at the forefoot also ensures a natural toe-off. You'll be flying in these.
Weight 296g (men’s 9) | Lugs 7mm | Midsole Moulded EVA | Outsole Rubber compound | Men’s sizes 7-13
Pros: Serious grip, good flex
Cons: Slightly narrow fit may not suit all
I dare you to find a shoe that is more grippy than the latest iteration of the Mudclaw. We imagine the design meetings consisted of thinking of the most gruesome terrain and building a shoe for even worse. The 8mm deep lugs (yes, you read that correctly) use Graphene Grip, Inov-8's rubber compound which provides super traction on any terrain.
The ride is smooth thanks to a good amount of flex in the midsole and the 4mm drop, which would lend itself to racing over the fells. The upper is comfy and feels locked in without being restrictive, although some may feel this shoe is a tad narrow.
Weight: 260g (UK 8) | Lugs 8mm | Midsole EVA | Outsole Graphene | Men's sizes 6-14