Monday, July 06, 2020

Road Trail Run's Best of Trail Running 2020..So Far!

The RTR test team picks their Trail Running Favorites of 2020..So  Far.. 

Article by Jeff Valliere, John Tribbia, Renee Krusemark, Jeff Beck, NIls Scharff, Jacob Brady, Ryan Eiler, Don Reichelt, Mac Jeffries and Sam Winebaum

Link to all our RTR reviews HERE

Link to our reviewers bios HERE

Video version HERE

Best of Road Running HERE

Read on for the team's picks!

What is your favorite all-around Trail Shoe of 2020 and why?

Mac Jeffries

Salming T6 (RTR Review)- lightweight, drains quickly, perfect cushion and traction for mid-grade trails

John Tribbia

Hoka Torrent 2 (RTR Review)- it is the go anywhere, comfortably and fast, shoe that can be used for racing or shuffling on any off-road terrain.

Jeff Valliere

Saucony Xodus 10 (RTR Review)- - Surprise hit, the Xodus 10 is competent all mountain, all trail, all terrain shoe with amazing cushion, perfectly fitting secure upper, reasonable weight, max protection, traction and is fast on roads! There is really nothing this shoe cannot do! Honorable mention: Brooks Cascadia 15

Renee Krusemark

Saucony Switchback 2 (RTR Initial Video Review)- because it’s light, comfortable, and the outsole performs well on trails as compared to other road to trail shoes. For me, it’s a shorter distance shoe, no more than 15 miles maximum before the low stack starts to hurt my feet.

Jeff Beck

Nike Pegasus Trail 2 (RTR Review)-. It's one of those shoes that doesn't get anything wrong - the upper/midsole/outsole all do their job well.

Nils Scharff

Nike Terra Kiger 6 (RTR Review)- - I haven't run in many trail shoes this year and most of them are kind of outdated. But the Kiger 6 is definitely a fun shoe for faster efforts and some Segment hunting here on my local single tracks! In addition it's design is beautiful, the price is just right and it is really comfortable. You can't go wrong with it for most trails below 30k.

Jacob Brady

Merrell MTL Skyfire (RTR Review)-: nicely bouncy, energetic ride; lightweight, with a good balance for cushion and ground feel; runs well on a wide variety of terrain from asphalt to technical trail.

Ryan Eiler

LaSportiva Jackal (RTR Review)-- Superb underfoot protection, without losing trail feel. Close to road-shoe comfort, but capable of handling almost any type of surface.

Don Reichelt

Hoka Torrent 2 - It just does everything well. Long days, short days, easy days.... It's a GREAT trail shoe that fits perfectly.

Sam Winebaum

Brooks Catamount (RTR Initial Review)-: Protective, well cushioned, secure, and decently light the Cat inspires confidence and is fast

What is your Favorite Big Mountain Shoe of 2020 and why?

John T

Salomon Sense Pro/4 (RTR Review)- - it is a secure fitting shoe with all of the right amounts of cushion, traction, and protection for all types of rocky or dirt terrain that can easily take runners on 30K to 40K excursions. The shoe handles everything with ease, from snow to mud to dry trail to slabby scree to off-trail muck to scrambling sections of big mountain runs.

Jeff V

Saucony Mad River TR 2 (RTR Initial Review)-: Another surprise, but this shoe has gobs of protection, traction and is unbelievably secure, stable and predictable on rocky technical trails, off trail, talus hopping. Cushion is ample for long days and comfort is superb. Honorable mention: Saucony Peregrine 10

Jeff Beck

Saucony Peregrine 10 (RTR Review)-. Upper locks the foot down, aggressive tread grips well, and the midsole is just enough cushioning without dulling ground feel - and the rockplate protects just enough.

Don R

Altra Lone Peak 4.5 (RTR Review)-. When I need a shoe that can take punches from the mountain, this is my go to. It fits perfectly, the upper is spot on, and the MAXTRAC rubber on the outsole seems to handle anything without wearing out at all.


Saucony Xodus 10: Lots of cushion, support, and traction makes the Xodus the ideal long big mountain shoe for me,

What is your Favorite Easy day trail shoe of 2020 and why?

John T

Brooks Caldera 4 (RTR Review)- - it is road-to-trail versatile with a durable upper, adequate traction, and a responsive yet plush midsole to keep those legs feeling fresher on recovery days and at the end of long runs.

Jeff V

Brooks Caldera 4 -: With a wide and accommodating toe box, yet still good security, breathability and lots of cushion, the Caldera 4 is a great choice for easy days. Super comfortable, reasonably light and well vented too. Honorable mention: Hoka One One Stinson ATR 6.


Saucony Canyon TR (RTR Initial Video Review)-; it’s a heavy shoe, but comfortable and stable for a road to trail shoe. I can’t run fast with the Canyon TR, which is the point for an easy day.

Jeff B

Brooks Caldera 4. Total revamp from the 2/3, this version has a massive toe box and lots of comfort with decent grip.

Don R

Altra Timp 2 (RTR Review)- - Although I didn't review it well compared to the 1.5, the Timp 2 is a great shoe for me on runs less than 10 miles.

Sam W

Brooks Caldera 4: A wide platform on the ground forgives terrain misteps, the upper is comfortable and roomy yet secure, there is more than adequate cushion, and it can move along lively 

What is your Favorite short day trail shoe of 2020 and why?

Jeff V

Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review)-: The Pro is amazing! It is light, responsive, fast, custom like fitting upper, stable, protective, well cushioned for the weight and has great traction and protection to boot. Also, it just looks sporty, sleek and fast. Honorable mentions: Saucony Switchback 2

Jeff B

Brooks Catamount -. So far in training it's a very fun shoe, but with my bigger frame the fun runs out around 6-7 miles, but those first few miles are speedy and fun.


Topo Runventure 3 (RTR Review)-: quality construction, sleek looks, 10/10 comfort and foothold, great ground feel. A joy to run in, though lacking cushion for long days.

Don R

Altra Timp 2 - Although I didn't review it well compared to the 1.5, the Timp 2 is a great shoe for me on runs less than 10 miles.


Salomon Sense Pro/4: While not quite the speedster the Catamount is the traction and stable cushion along with light weight make it an any trail  short trail choice 

What is your Favorite race day trail shoe of 2020 and why?

Jeff V

Hoka One One Torrent 2: Light, responsive, surprising all day cushion for weight, great upper and superb traction, the Torrent 2 is super versatile and can rip anything from a mile or two to easily a 50 miler. Honorable mention: Salomon Sense Pro 4

Jeff B

Hoka Speedgoat 4 (RTR Review)-. The toebox is a little cramped (even though it's the biggest toe box they've used in a SG) but otherwise it's a near perfect shoe with an upper that holds the foot tightly, a midsole that protects without need of a rockplate, and an outsole that grips no matter what.


Merrell MTL Skyfire: Energetic, bouncy ride encourages a quick turnover and has a lightly propulsive effect. My runs in the Skyfire always ended up faster than planned to go.


Hoka One One Torrent 2 - If I were to race a trail race anytime soon... this would be my pick. It's nimble, light, and the low stack height is perfect for fast running


Brooks Catamount: My last races 25K at Snowbird and a half in Park CIty were in the Torrent and Sense Pro/4 respectively. Next time out West it will be the Cat as it is more protective and stable for downhills yet fast on climbs and flats.

What is your Favorite long-distance trail shoe of 2020 and why?

Jeff V

Saucony Xodus 10: A repeat, but for all the reasons above, the Xodus 10 checks all the boxes for long distance with amazing cushion, comfort, great upper, reasonable weight, versatile on any surface and is agile. You certainly will not feel bogged down in this shoe. Honorable mention: Brooks Caldera 4


Nike Pegasus Trail 2. It doesn’t offer the support/stability I like for uneven terrain, but the midsole is great and allows for comfort when needed while still being responsive when I like to run faster paces.

Jeff B

Saucony Xodus 10. Mountains of traction and underfoot protection, regardless of how long you go there's always good squish underneath.


Hoka Torrent 2 for all the reasons above.


Speedgoat EVO (RTR Review)-: Lots of cushion, stable, with a fast draining airy upper all at a light weight and with some climbing flex (unlike the regular Speedgoat) it has everything I need for long days. White Mountains of NH tested!

What is your favorite apparel of 2020 and why?


Tracksmith Split Shorts because they fit well, the inner-liner is comfortable, and the split (although a bit revealing) allows for air on hot days.

Jeff B

Tie between Lululemon Pacebreaker short and TASC Performance Carrollton t-shirt. Shorts are comfortable and breathable, have ample pockets for Gu trash on long days, and have a built in liner with a thigh pocket for phone. Shirt is made from bamboo and is comfortable wet or dry, and even when drenched with sweat there's zero chafing.

Nils S

The North Face "Better Than Naked Shorts" - I finally got my hands on this shorts and it just feels amazing. First shorts I have which can handle 5+ gels easily (which was the reason I bought them) and wears just comfortable at the same time.

runinrabbit Champ Lite Singlet - Quite expensive for a singlet (atleast here in Europe) but totally worth it's money. If you want something that keeps you cool and comfortable on race day - don't look any further. The green colourway I have just glows!


Tracksmith Twilight Short - Game-changing internal liner, and handy pockets.


TRACKSMITH! You can tell a lot about a brand based on the liner in their shorts. Tracksmith clearly spent time on their and my sensitive bits thank them.


Tracksmith Twilight Shorts 5" (Best shorts ever, fit like nothing on), Odlo Blackcomb Pro T and Zeroweight Dual Dry Jacket, (Swiss comfort and design engineering to the max) RTR Review, Buff Run Trek Cap (close to a hundred runs and like new), Buff Merino , Gore R7 Visor (captures all sweat) And after the run there is nothing quite like the comfort of the "stable slipper" Topo Vibe slip on.

What is your favorite accessory of 2020 and why? (Packs, lights, poles, etc)

Jeff V

Camelback Octane 25 (RTR Review)- - A great crossover of run vest and day pack, the comfort and versatility is amazing, with ample accessible storage and hydration options.

Garmin Fenix 6S Pro (RTR Review)- - Small and light while retaining a relatively large screen and good battery life, easy to read, configure, customize, maps, widget glances, smartwatch crossover, accuracy.

Polar Grit X (RTR Video Review)-- It is all about training, fitness and health tracking with Polar and the Grit X delivers with a rugged looking outdoor focused watch with great battery life and on watch and app/web metrics to dig deep into.


Salomon Active Skin Set 8 (RTR Review Adv Skin 5)-. I don’t need much for a pack, and the Active Skin offers a smaller option. The back can hold a 1.5L bladder and the front pockets two 500ml flasks. That’s enough water for my long runs. The front pocket areas can carry my phone, a knife, gels, keys, a lot. If I don’t use the back bladder, I can fit a small pair of shoes back there to switch while trail running (granted I wear a women’s size 8 shoe). The Active Skin 8 disappears while wearing and it was a great option for me as compared to larger packs as I’m not a big runner.

Jeff B

Kogalla Ra light set (RTR Review and discount code) If you run at night there's nothing better than effectively having a car headlight mounted on your chest or wherever you want it. I paced a friend during the late stages of a 100K, and I received numerous bribes from other runners to abandon him and light their way instead. The Ra made me a beacon on the trail.


Buff Run Cap - As I haven't purchased a new watch or anything like that I count this awesome little peace from Buff as an accessory. The Run Cap is just light and comfortable and protects you well from the sun. In addition it's super packable and can just disappear in your pocket / west when you reach some shadow. Plus it looks cool even casually!


Gore Wear Gore Tex  Infinium Hybrid Jacke (RTR Review)- - High quality materials, and cut perfectly for running.


Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles (RTR Review) - the lightest, easiest to fold and unfold with snap out grip gloves to quick release pole  

Camelbak Octane 25L (RTR Review)-: Super vestaile.  All the front pockets, capacity, and fit  of a race vest with a large capacity rear backed up by yet more mesh drop in pockets and a rain cover. 

Any Polar  (RTR Video Review) watch for trend tracking  and currently trail and mountain focused Grit X. For races and trekking Forerunner 945 for its mapping and more visible screen.

Link to all our RTR reviews HERE

Link to our reviewers bios HERE

Video version HERE

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was a provided at no charge. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Anonymous said...

lists like this are really helpful to me when selecting
new gear to consider.
the format used makes that 'job' much much easier for me.

thanks to all for the hard work, and extra thanks for keeping
shy of 200 dollar shoes.

now if only apparel companies could stop the price insanity...

Mark P said...

I asked the following on another review last week but this seems a better place so sorry for the repeat:

I'm looking to get an off road shoe for a trail marathon I'm hopefully doing in October. It's in the UK so not the big mountains of the US or even mainland Europe but it will throw a really mix at us, especially at that time of year. I expect fairly well groomed trails, steep rocky sections, mud (probably lots!) and some sections of blacktop. I know you have several cushioned trail shoes on trial at the moment. I had been thinking of the Xodus 10 but it looks like there are a few alternatives coming through. What would be your suggestions? For reference I've run road marathons in comfort using the Rincon, Skechers Forza 3 and Saucony Guide. The only long mountain race I've done was 18 miles in a pair of Inov8 X Claws, the ground was very dry and hard and my feet were in bits after about 12 miles!

From the above the Xodus 10 is still looking like the front runner (especially as I'm enjoying the Endorphin Shift) but the Torrent 2 could be an option? I've looked at the Scott trail shoes previously as well.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Mark P,
Sorry if we did not pick up on your earlier question. What times for those road marathons? Quite a range of shoes you ran in. Despite its weight, a factor ,Xodus 10 covers every base, Mad River is another Saucony option. The Sense Ride 3 while a bit dull would get you through for sure. If not mud and super slippery my personal choices would be Brooks two choices: Catamount or for a bit more underfoot width Caldera 4 and given 2 of your marathon shoes are support/ stability shoes. Last EVO Speedgoat or adidas Terrex Two BOQ
Sam, Editor

Marcel said...

thanks for the overview! is the video-version already online? the link posted leads to the road shoe video...

Mark P said...

Hi Sam

Thanks for the reply. I'm running just over 4 hours in road marathons but should really be down around 3.45. I was initially fitted for the Guide 7 based on gait when I started running around 6 years ago. I then used the Guide 8 and 9 before needing to get a pair of trainers in a hurry and going for the Forza 3 after coming across your review of them (the first time I visited this site). I no longer feel that I need stability shoes though, the Rincon was the most comfortable shoe I've worn on a marathon but unfortunately the foam died in them very quickly after around 150 miles. I'm using the Vaporfly Next % as my long race shoe now with the NB1400 V6 for shorter races and the Epic React 2 for the bulk of my daily running for the past 12 months. In the Welsh hills in October mud is almost certainly going to be a factor along with a slight chance of a bit of snow but unlikely but there's also likely to still be a lot of hard, rocky surfaces and road sections that make my current Inov8 options unsuitable.

Thanks, Mark

Anonymous said...

Have to agree the Xodus 10 is a fantastic shoe from mild to extreme trails (White Mountains tested) You just forget they are on your feet and miles just pass by with no issues. I’m a picky SOB so if I could have one thing they would be even stickier for wet slab rocks but I’m probably more critical than most people. I’ve got 5 pairs of shoes I’m testing and a big mileage day the Xodus rules. Waiting for my all new Altra Olympus 4’s to show up which looks like a stellar rework of what I’ve found to be the most comfortable trail shoe I’ve owned but perhaps not for really fast moving through technical trails. The new 4 model looks better equipped in that department.

Curt said...

Love the roundup here guys, but... where's Dom? Is he doing alright? I share some similar shoe affinities and I was a teeny bit concerned by his absence.

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks for the input! White Mountains tested is the ultimate standard!

Hubert said...

Hi together,
a very interesting collection of favorite shoes. For me the sense pro 4 is Nr. 1 for all but long distance running on trails. If traction is very important Peregrin 10. The sense ride 3 was a bit of a dissapointment. It has good protection and traction, but running with it is no fun. Ok the longer you run it´s getting a bit better. But for long distances I still prefer the La Sportiva Akasha, a very old version but still on the market. Next shoe will be the Torrent 2. Your reviews are very helpful

Todd Kelman said...

Thanks so much for all these reviews - so helpful! I'd love to hear (or read) your recommendations for trail shoes for wide feet - so those that not only have a wide toe box but are wide across the ball of the foot too.

Many thanks again for all of your efforts!

jabes said...

Great site, great reviews.

I have been running in the Hoka Torrent The Torrent is amazing! It covers everything off-road; its fast, light, comfortable, very grippy up and down hill, foot does not slip inside the shoe, low height helps with stability and therefore confidence. The amount of cushion, bounce and response is perfect, which is what capured me on the reviews (reviews across websites too)

For anyone reading this, I've been running 10 to 21k offorad; up to 450m vertical, mostly grass, also dirt, gravel and chalky sloped paths

I'm very glad I have found your site and reviews.

Thanks very much, your efforts are very much appreciated!


Sam Winebaum said...

Hi JB,
Thanks for your kind words and input on the Torrent!
Sam, Editor