Monday, December 21, 2020

The RoadTrailRun Team's 2020 Trail Run Shoes of the Year


2020 was an unusual and trying year with much tragedy and uncertainty worldwide. Runners saw most races canceled and often ran solo away from run pals and raced virtual and solo as well. Yet running was a solace, a way to breathe and get outside and away from it all more than ever. Run companies went virtual with offices closed yet somehow were able to get a magnificent crop of new and innovative models first into our hands to test and review and then out to the rest of the running public. Trade shows that RTR often attends were canceled with virtual presentations, the new way to see and hear about the latest.

Our test team of 20 plus of all abilities, ages, and run interests, worldwide on 5 continents from the US to Europe to Mexico, Africa, Asia,and Australia reviewed in English, German, Danish and Spanish most often in multi tester review format.  Collectively they ran very close to 50,000 miles / 80,000 kilometers of trails and roads.

The team wrote 275 articles covering road shoes, trail shoes, and Apparel/Tech/Gear with many also covered on our growing YouTube channel. Thus, our Best of 2020 comes from a broad perspective not only of models tested but also from a highly diverse group of testers. 

Not every tester reviewed every shoe and in some cases we had far more pairs than for others but clear favorites emerged. And to keep it interesting and fresh we are including in our best of articles here shoes we ran and reviewed in 2020 that will be released in early 2021.

10 testers participated in the Trail survey running trails in Colorado, Utah, California, New Hampshire, Nebraska, and Germany. 

To prepare the survey, we developed a questionnaire covering key categories which the testers in the Trail category responded to. Testers could not see others' responses. 

We have also posted a separate Road HERE and will be posting Apparel/Gear Best of articles as well as individual tester year in running articles. 

Full Multi Tester Reviews of all shoes can be found at our master review index HERE

Full Run Bios of all our testers can be found HERE

And the RTR team’s best of Trail Running Shoes 2020 winners are! 

Editor’s Note: In the first category we list the tester’s location and year to date distance and vertical. Totals  include a combination of road and trail.


Jeff Vaiiere (Colorado: 1519 miles / 2445km, 554K vertical feet)

Brooks Cascadia 15 (RTR Review) - The Cascadia 15 is a perfect all around trail cruiser for my needs and the shoe I keep in the car that can cover me for any outing.  It runs quick and efficiently with amazing foothold, traction, cushion, comfort, versatility and protection.  It can essentially go anywhere and do anything.

Renee Krusemark (Nebraska: 2362 miles / 3801km, 136K feet vertical)

New Balance More Trail  (RTR Review) has a comfortable ride and is relatively lightweight for being a high-cushion, beefy trail shoe. The shoe had some flaws, but remains my favorite "heavy" cushioned trail shoe of 2020. 

Nils Scharff: (Germany, Run: 3462km with 64796m vertical (2151 miles / 212585 ft) Hike: 375km / 30604m vertical (233miles / 100406ft)

Hoka EVO Speedgoat (RTR Review)  - Fill in any Speedgoat you have at hand. The EVO is just the current one in my rotation and if you want to cruise in your local forest, snowy roads or nearest mountains - just take any Speedgoat. They are this good, really!

John Tribbia (Colorado: 3128 miles / 5034 km, 178K vertical)

Hoka Torrent (RTR Review) This was a hard category, but I went with the Torrent because I love the fit and protection this shoe provides, while also providing a unique combination of cushion + ground feel + light weight. It is versatile as a racing shoe or a lighter weight shoe for training. I love dodging in and out of trail obstacles and always have fun wearing the Torrent. 

Marcel Krebs (Germany: 2892km / 1797miles,  52K vertical meters)

Salomon Sense Ride 3 (RTR Review)  Extremely versatile; highly cushioned but not too soft. Perfect toe box especially for wider forefoot. Excellent upper (breathable but still protective). For a non-plated shoe it has a lively midsole. If I had to decide for only one trail shoe to use for a whole year, it would be this one.

Jeff Beck (Colorado: 1105 miles / 1617km, 42K vertical feet)

New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail it's versatile, it's smooth, and comfortable.

Jacob Brady (Portland, Maine 2598 miles / 4181 km, 146K feet vertical):

Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 (RTR Review) . This shoe brings a smile to my face. It is my pick for many of these categories. The fit and balance of protection and groundfeel are both 10/10 in the G 270 and that makes it a fun and versatile shoe. it's durable, grippy, and performant as well—and it is fast and lightly bouncy on smooth terrain. It can do door to trail, hiking, easy mid-distance running, and workouts.

Sam Winebaum (New Hampshire: 1509 miles / 2429km 94K feet vertical+130 miles hiking+nordic)

ASICS Trabuco Max (RTR Review) . The Max is very well cushioned, stable enough for all but very technical trails at speed and has a superb multi purpose outsole. The plateless Guidesole rolls you along without overdoing it with a lively rockered ride that has all the rock protection one could wish for without a plate in the way or over firming things. As most of my trail runs include at least some road or hard smooth dirt the Max has been an ideal companion.  

Adam Glueck  (New Hampshire: 1460 miles / 2350km, 289K vertical feet + hiking & roller skiing)

ASICS Trabuco Max:  The bounce of the flytefoam and rocker just makes it easy to cruise more efficiently and quickly, and that's fun.

Dom Layfield (California :1522 miles / 2449km, 278K vertical feet)

Topo Athletic Runventure 3.(RTR Review)    A wonderful example of when less is more, the Runventure 3 is simple, functional, understated and streamlined.   This is a minimally-cushioned shoe that is firm underfoot.  But there's enough protection so that you don't wince when you land on pointy rocks.   It has a wide toebox yet still provides excellent midfoot hold.  Trail feel is outstanding.   One of those shoes where everything ""just works"".

A close runner-up would be Altra Superior 4.5 (RTR Review)   Another minimal shoe, slightly softer and squishier than the Runventure 3.  Which shoe is better is a matter of personal taste.  I like them both, but give the nod to Topo, largely because I already picked the Superior as my shoe of the year for 2020.

Daily Cruiser Trail Shoe(s) of the Year

In Trail the nature of the terrain, and mix of terrain on courses, runner pace and agility and other factors tend to play a greater role than in road and thus we see a diversity of choices here (and through out the survey) with the ASICS Trabuco Max (RTR Review) releasing January 2021 and the New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail v1 (RTR Review) each receiving 2 votes and other choices a single vote each.


Jeff Valliere: Saucony Peregrine 10 (RTR Review) - The Peregrine 10 has amazing traction on all surfaces, great underfoot protection, a low and stable feel combined with excellent foothold and while not the lightest or most responsive, is really competent at fast running through the roughest terrain and inspires confidence. Editor’s Note: Highly technical terrain with steep vertical is Jeff’s speciality and most of his runs above Boulder are on such terrain.

Renee: Inov-8's TerraUltra G270 (RTR Review)  for the win. The shoe is lightweight, nimble, and capable of being a long run shoe and short distance speedster. 

Nils: ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro (RTR Review) - When it comes to really technical trails I believe that traction and fit are the most important features of a shoe because those lead to confidence. And just with confidence you will be able to dance recklessly from stone to stone down a crazy trail in the alps (or anywhere in the world). And while the Fujitrabuco Pro has not the most breathable upper (it actually is terribly hot) it for sure delivers on secure fit and traction!

John: Salomon Sense Pro 4.(RTR Review)  Aside from impassible icy terrain, I have yet to find a route that these shoes can't handle. The Sense Pro 4s provide best in class security in traction and underfoot protection.

Marcel: Inov-8 TerraUltra G270. It has a very lively midsole for a trail shoe combined with very good ground feel because of zero drop. Furthermore, the foothold is almost perfect, the upper is excellent and the grip outstanding as long the terrain does not become too muddy.

Beto Hughes: (Mexico: 4222.4km / 2764 miles , 72,599m vertical

Saucony Xodus 10 (RTR Review) is really grippy on technical uphills and works great on wet rocks.

Jeff Beck: Saucony Peregrine 11/11ST (coming early 2021) Absolutely loving Saucony's 1-2 punch of great foot hold, good protection, and unreal traction.

Jacob: Topo Athletic Runventure 3 (RTR Review). This may not be my recommendation for "best technical trail shoe", but it is my favorite. My (now old) home trails are the most technical non-mountainous terrain I run. I have to focus on running when wearing the Runventure and I find myself striking more forefoot, but I move quickly and swiftly though the forest. The grip and ground feel on hard dirt is fantastic. Really fun for short, fast trail runs.

Sam: Didn't think I was going to choose the Salomon Sense Ride 3 (RTR Review) for any award as it has a relatively dull dense ride on smoother terrain but on technical taken at my slow cautious paces and for longer distances, especially, its superb upper hold and all that dense cushion has it leading the pack.

The far, far lighter Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 gets  honorable mention. Its agility, more than adequate cushion and outstanding grip were a highlight on many hikes in the White Mountains on highly technical terrain.

And for winter conditions and wet, the high top zip upper adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro (RTR Review) with its ski boot like midfoot wrap with BOA  closure is fantastic. The  Boost and EVA midsole has plenty of cushion and a lively flexible front fto go with a protected ride on both trail and road with plenty of all purpose traction from its Continental rubber outsole.It is not light! But runs way lighter than its weight,

Adam: Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3. (RTR Review) Extremely protective rock plate, but with enough flexibility for precise foot placement.  Stable with excellent upper. It is the only trail shoe I've run an ultramarathon on mountain terrain in.


The inov-8 Terraultra G 270 and the Saucony Peregrine get 2 votes each with every other choice getting one vote each. Salomon with 3 votes, each for different models ,and Saucony with 3 votes for two different models were the favorite brands for technical terrain 


Renee: New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail   (RTR Review) is a great choice for buffed out trails and all day comfort. 

Jeff V. Brooks Caldera 5 (RTR Review) delivers plush cushion, overall comfort, an accommodating toe box, protection and response making for an ideal all day shoe for easy recovery days, without feeling slow or sluggish.  In fact, the Caldera 5 is great for shorter training days or faster ultras with plenty of response.

Nils: Hoka EVO Speedgoat (RTR Review) - I'm afraid that isn't the last category where I put in the EVO SG. It's soft, protective but stable ride just works for recovery runs.

John: Hoka Challenger ATR 6  (RTR Review). I love the Challenger ATR 6 for my easy days because the cushion and ride give me the shoe provides is ideal as a long hauler, possibly more road oriented and gravitates toward less technical trails, and for those who put in a lot of hours at a casual pace. The shoe rolls smoothly and accommodates a heel or forefoot striker.

Marcel: Saucony Xodus 10  (RTR Review). It is my equivalent to the Triumph 17/18 on the road. Highly cushioned, not too soft, roomy toebox and a very versatile outsole.

Jeff Beck: Nike Pegasus Trail 2  (RTR Review). It might not have all the rock protection I'd like, but I like everything else about it - so great for easy days.

Jacob: Inov-8 Terraultra G 270  (RTR Review). The fit is as close to perfect as any shoe could fit. The ride is stable and smooth but moves along well with light bounce and good energy return. The G 270 is my pick for easy trail days  for the same reason the Freedom 3 was my favorite road recovery shoe: a well-executed flexible, bouncy, pleasant underfoot feel with a 10/10 fit/upper.

Sam: Brooks Caldera 4  (RTR Review). Plenty of cushion on a broad platform. Roomy, decently light and with a pleasant rocker they are easy to move along and secure and stable enough that you don’t have to focus on every step as you amble easy does it on just about any terrain.

Adam: Asics Trabuco Max  (RTR Review):  Phenomenal cushion, responsive bounce and a rocker.  Makes every run feel easier and faster.  


The Brooks Caldera gets 2 votes. All others one vote each.


Jeff V. Salomon Sense 4 Pro (RTR Review) - This shoe was a very pleasant surprise for me, after only being tepid on the Sense Pro 1, skipped the 2 and was disappointed with the 3.  The 4th iteration is a massive improvement and is exactly what I always hoped for in an S/Lab, where S/Lab for me has sometimes fallen short (specifically thinking of the SG version).  The Sense Pro 4 is a light shoe that has exceptionally secure and dialed in fit, almost a custom fit/feel, is very responsive, stable, low to the ground with enough cushion and protection underfoot to go fast over any terrain without having to dance and pick through.  Traction is also excellent, with substantial lugs and better durability than the S/Lab SG.

Renee: Inov-8's TerraUltra G270 (RTR Review) wins several "best of" categories for me in 2020. The shoe is light, nimble, and comfortable. Second place to a solid Hoka Torrent 2. 

Nils: Inov-8 Terraultra G270 - The G270 took most of us by surprise. And even if it's designed for long distances up to ultra  it's also quite light and impressively energetic. This makes it my top choice for anything below 30k. Heck I even did 100 and 200 meter strides in those and it felt like flying!

John: Salomon Sense Pro 4  It seemingly has everything you would need to pursue a short objective: sock like fit, ample cushion, underfoot protection, lightweight, quickly adjustable, and grippy traction on all surface types.

Marcel: Scott Kinabalu RC 2.0 on dry and not too technical terrain. It has a speedroll geometry comparable to Saucony, a very grippy outsole and low weight. On muddy terrain I would opt for the  Inov-8 Mudclaw G260: it has perfect grip, excellent foothold and a low weight for that kind of shoe.

Beto Hughes: Saucony Switchback 2 (RTR Review) is fast and comfortable even on wet trails.

Jeff Beck: Brooks Catamount (RTR Review)They say it's great for 100 miles, but not for me. If races were happening, and the race was short, this would be on my foot.

Jacob Topo Athletic Runventure 3 (RTR Review). I had a lot of fun 2-5mi fast, technical terrain runs in the Runventure 3. This is the only scenario I like it for. Too harsh for road, too firm and required too much form focus for easy terrain or when going slow. However when I'm putting in the work and focusing on footstrike I feel like I'm moving elegantly and gliding through the forest, connected to the ground.

Sam: Inov-8 Terraultra G270 Oh but it may depend. I raced a virtual trail half on smoother Utah single track in the Sense Pro 4 whose grip and firm and protective ride and very secure upper stood out but that was before I had the Inov 8 Terra Ultra  G270 or the Brooks Catamount. I took all three on some of the same trails on my 5 mile or so test loops in both Utah and New Hampshire where the Inov-8 ended up fastest pretty much across the board overall in both places but not by much. I was clearly faster in the Inov-8 on the more technical NH trails than in the Catamount with the Catamount shining on smooth non technical downhills and uphills in Utah So the winner for me is the Inov-8 as it proved most versatile.

Adam: Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 (RTR Review)  Sublime upper, very light weight, excellent outsole grip, enough rock plate for protection in technical.


The Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 with 3 votes edges out the Salomon Sense Pro 4 in the category with 2 votes. 


Dominick: Inov-8 TerraUltra G270.   Inov-8 really nailed it with this shoe.   While this is a capable, comfortable shoe that can go anywhere and do anything, including daily training, it is as a race shoe that it really shines.  Grip is excellent.  Foot retention is excellent.  

Trail feel is excellent.   Durability is excellent.  And it is light enough (exactly the weight stated in the name, BTW) for race day.   Personally, I'd pick this for almost any trail race up to 50 miles.

Jeff V. Salomon Sense Pro 4 - For all the reasons listed in the fast and short category,it is  a great blend of everything in a fast package.  While no racing for me in 2020, when I was looking to go fast on the local mountain trails, this was my pick, even carrying me to within about a minute of a 9 year old PR of mine on a very technical roundtrip route of Green Mountain, which really surprised me.

Renee: My only trail race of 2020 was a 10.5 miler in mud with the Inov-8 TerraUltra G270 and it was awesome. Again, it is nimble and fast yet comfortable for longer runs. 

Nils: HOKA EVO Speedgoat - As the only trail race I was able to participate in 2020 has been a marathon with 2500m of vertical gain and loss the more cushioned option wins here. It literally has been a race day decision between the EVO Speedgoats and the G 270. I chose the HOKA and never looked back. They treated me phenomenally and I never wished for anything else on my feet while I was torturing myself up and down the Alps.

John Tribbia:  For me, a solid trail racing shoe is light and gives me confidence on ascents and descents in all types of terrain. The one shoe that checks all of these boxes is the Salomon Sense Pro 4.

Marcel: Inov-8 TerraUltra G270 for the reasons mentioned in short and fast category

Jeff Beck: Saucony Peregrine 11 or 11ST (review soon), depending on the terrain. Great upper, great midsole, killer outsole. When it comes time for racing, why settle for anything less than awesome?

Jacob: Skechers GOrun Speed TRL Hyper (RTR Review), if it's not too technical terrain. The Speed TRL Hyper is the lightest trail shoe I've ever worn and runs like a road racer through the woods. However, traction, especially in the wet, is mediocre, enough to slow me down. If technical, I'd go for the Topo Runventure 3. If a long race, the Inov-8 Terraultra G 270.

Sam: If long and rough Saucony Xodus 10, if up to a half Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 on more technical terrain, If half up to 20 miles on smooth hard pack Brooks Catamount, if highly technical and short Sense Pro 4. I also concur with Jacob the Speed TRL is amazing and was our 2019 Trail Shoe of the Year and remains a great option in the category. 

Adam: Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 (RTR Review).  Same reason that it's my go to fast and light trail shoe.  For longer and more mountainous terrain I'd take the S/Lab Sense 8.  


It all depends on the race length, terrain, and runner but overall the Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 got the most mentions (5) in the category.


Jeff Valliere: Brooks Caldera 5 (RTR Review) - for all the reasons listed above, the Caldera 5 is ideal for long distances, with the maximal cushion, forgiving toe box, reasonable weight and responsive feel.

Renee: Some runners might not like the stack height and zero drop of the Inov-8 TerraUltra G270 for long-distances, but I think it works for 20 miles runs and even 50k depending on the individual and the terrain. For speed and performance, I would choose the TerraUltra over heavier options. 

Nils: HOKA EVO Speedgoat - Depending on your preferences you could run even an ultra in the Inov-8 Terraultra G270 but I prefer a little more protection when the days out there get longer. Therefore the Speedgoat wins this category for me.

John Tribbia: Brooks Catamount. My earlier review of this shoe only gave an 8.8/10 rating, but I have since gained a lot of affection towards the Catamount. The energy return and smooth ride, along with the perfect combination of light + cushion, makes this shoe my go-to for longer runs. 

Marcel: Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC. Same speed-roll geometry and perfect breathable upper like the Kinabalu RC 2.0, but more cushioning and stack height. 

Jeff Beck: ASICS Trabuco Max. Such a fun shoe, great cushioning, and incredible geometry - but not great for technical stuff, so long distance is its forte.

Jacob: Inov-8 Terraultra G 270. I didn't do any ultra-distance racing this year and most of my 15+ mile runs were on road. I did several 3-5 hour hikes though. Every long trail run and every hike since getting the G 270 was in the G 270. It has a stable, predictable, smooth, and lively ride. It can go all day without issue. The fit is amazingly secure but hardly noticed on the foot. 

Sam: Nothing in the field quite like the Saucony Xodus 10 for max cushion for long runs on any terrain as it delivers tons of cushion, stability and bounce, all leading to a lively any surface from the most technical to even serving as a superb recovery oriented road ride. The aggressive outsole plays nice on any surface with outstanding grip and there is all the protection one could ever dream of. Yes, it is heavy but the weight isn't that noticed. And echoing Adam again, I was amazed how fresh my legs were after long day hikes in the White Mountains on highly technical terrain in the Terraultra G 270, the best performing most agile and grippy shoe there of any I tested this summer, including even several boots. 

Adam: For less technical, ASICS Trabuco Max, for more technical, Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3.  The Asics Trabuco max has incredible cushion, but if I'm running roots and rocks I'd like the technical chops of the Ultra 3.  

Dominick: Altra Timp 2 (RTR Review). I liked the original Timp, but it's weight and only so-so foot retention meant that I used it as a training shoe, and opted for lighter, tighter shoes for races.  The Timp 2 is lighter, and snugger-fitting (which upset a lot of runners who loved V1), and a better, more mainstream shoe.   This is a startlingly comfortable, super-cushioned shoe that I would happily wear for ultra races and long runs.   The only caveat -- and it's a significant one -- is that upper durability seems poor.  I burst right through the uppers on my first pair, which failed just above the sole join.  In my second pair, I made an DIY rand by smearing some Shoe Goo around the perimeter.  This seems to be holding up well, but one shouldn't have to make such ad-hoc modifications.  Nevertheless, the Timp 2 is otherwise so excellent, that I still feel it is worth recommending.


Again no decisive consensus although the Inov-8 Terraultra G-270 does get two top nods.


Jeff: Saucony Xodus 10 - A real shocker for me, as I almost passed this by based on my opinion of previous versions.  The Xodus 10, while it looks like a pure trail shoe, is surprisingly adept on the road, so does not feel like a compromise, yet once on the trail, they are exceptionally competent on any terrain with very good foothold, security, response, traction and protection.  While not the lightest shoe out there, it runs lighter than the weight implies.

Renee: New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail As someone who hates heavy shoes, the More Trail was a surprise hit for me. The outsole and stack height might not be the best for technical trails, but the shoe is a good option for Door to Trail. Second place to a heavy Saucy Canyon TR which worked well for slow days. 

Nils: Inov-8 Terraultra G270 - This category kind of doubles for me with the daily cruiser option as I have more moderate trails around my house. But while the Speedgoat won for cruising the G270 just runs too well on concrete to not let it win here. It would even be on the better half of the road shoes I tested this year!

John Tribbia:  Brooks Caldera 4. The Caldera is a high performing cushioned choice on a full spectrum of terrain that also fits a full spectrum of feet. 

Marcel: Salomon Sense Ride 3 

Jeff Beck: Nike Pegasus Trail 2. Great on the road, and great on buffed out trails. Not a bad looking shoe either.

Jacob: Saucony Switchback 2 (RTR Review). I was torn between the Switchback 2 and the G 270 for this one but wanted the Switchback 2 to get on my favorites of 2020 somewhere. It think it has more hours worn than any other shoe in 2020 for me, as I wore it walking and run/walking both on the city sidewalks and forest singletrack from receiving it up until the winter, when I needed more insulation and weatherproofing. The Switchback is easy to put on, easy to dial in the fit, comfortable, and versatile. 

Sam: The upcoming early 2021 ASICS Trabuco Max checks all the boxes for me as a door to trail shoe. Plenty of forgiving non mushy cushion, a rockered plateless geometry that rolls along very smoothly and is stable on all but the more technical terrain and an aggressive (more so than most door to trail options)  outsole that leans trail and that while noisy delivers response on the road and isn't in the way, all topped with a comfortable upper.

Honorable mention must go to the Brandblack Tarantula (RTR Review) with its broad on the ground stable supercritical midsole and super durable Vibram XS Trek outsole. More door to smooth trail oriented it is a shoe I didn't think about taking off after runs for the rest of the day as it transitions to everyday use with style and comfort, not always the case with trail shoes

Adam: ASICS Trabuco Max:  Even on the days when I'm tired, this shoe is really efficient and the bounce/rocker is really fun, even on the roads.  


The brand new releasing January Trabuco Max (RTR Review) gets two votes with no other shoe getting more than one vote.


Jeff: Salomon Sense Pro 4  (RTR Review) hands down, as it is my most competent, fun, fast trail shoe and my first pick if I really want to put in my best, race day sort of effort.

Dominick: Inov-8 TerraUltra G 270  (RTR Review).  This shoe rises to the top because you can use one shoe for anything: long and short distances; training or racing; technical or mellow terrain.  

Renee: Inov-8's TerraUltra G270, hands down. Overall, this shoe is my favorite new release of 2020 road or trail. The shoe is comfortable, nimble, and light weight. I had some critiques in the RoadTrailRun review, but this shoe was still my highest rated shoe. 

Nils: Inov-8 Terraultra G270 - There are two reasons I see the G270 even above the outstanding EVO Speedgoat: 1. I just didn't expect it to be this good! 2. While I think you can run anything from a speed workout up to an ultra in the G270 the Speedgoat can be too much shoe for the faster and shorter stuff. Therefore the Inov-8 G270 is one of the most versatile shoes I can think of. You can use it for workouts, for long runs, for races and all of that in a range from the streets up to the most technical trails you can think of! If you just want to or can have one pair of trail shoes in your lineup: Get it! Even if you just can have one running shoe at all (road or trail) in your lineup: Get it! And for any other occasion: Get it as well!

John: Salomon Sense Pro 4. I only want to use my Sense Pro 4s on special occasions because I don't want to wear them out too quickly. The shoe fits me perfectly and is best on my favorite technical trails above Boulder. 

Marcel: Very tough call, because it depends to a high degree on the specific terrain. Nonetheless, the Inov-8 TerraUltra G270 was the biggest positive surprise and also an excellent allrounder, so my vote goes to the  G270.

Jeff Beck: Brooks Catamount (RTR Review). Light, well cushioned, solid protection, great traction. What's not to like?

Jacob: Inov-8 Terraultra G 270. One week into my testing of the G 270 it was my favorite trail shoe of 2020 and nothing beat it since. In fact, it has made me neglect all my other trail shoes because none are as comfortable, enjoyable, or versatile as the G 270. I never knew there would be a single shoe I thought was this good. It is amazingly versatile and the fit is perfection. Many levels above the fit/security of any other trail shoe I've run. Really fun. Highly recommended. 

Sam: No question the Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 is my trail shoe of the year. At barely 9.1 oz /  257 g with its grip everything Graphene outsole, a TPU/EVA blend midsole, and even an innovative TPU beaded footbed this zero drop shoe punches all the boxes magnificently with a lively fun ride, great upper security, breathability and water draining delivering, literally, any terrain versatility and superb traction.

Don't fret the zero drop too much as it is not really noticed, running more like a 4mm shoe for me. I put it through a huge range of uses including technical hiking with the White Mountains where there was more than enough protection and tons of agility and all kinds of fast and mostly shorter runs on all kinds of terrain and even on roads. It is a joy to run and sets a new and high bar in trail running shoes,

Adam: Asics Trabuco Max (RTR Review) I haven't run in a trail shoe with this fine a rocker and such responsive foam before.  I'd prefer it if it had a nicer more polished upper/lacing, but for everything but the most technical of mountain runs, it's lovely.  


INOV-8 TerraUltra G 270

5 of the 6 testers who ran it had the Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 as their trail shoe of the year. While it did not dominate categories, it was in the mix in every category for just about any use or distance, results demonstrating its incredible versatility, great substance for such a light shoe and lively ride.  Second place goes to the Salomon Sense Pro 4 with two votes with our fast more technically oriented trail testers John (who did not test the G 270) and Jeff Valliere giving it their nods. 

What were your 2020 Favorites? We would love to hear from you in Comments below.

Thank you very much for reading, following, and subscribing to RoadTrailRun! The team wishes all Happy Holidays and a productive, healthy, and satisfying 2021 wherever your roads and trails take you and in whatever shoes work best for you!

RTR Team's Best of 2020 Articles
Road Running Shoes HERE

RTR Contributors Best of Run 2020. Year in Review Articles

The product reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.

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John Haake said...

Great article.

Having read all the reviews and the mid 2020 Trail list, I was surprised that the Cascadia beat out the Xodus in Jeff V’s most versatile daily category.

Also, I’m going to have to get the new Inov-8 now. Having run in the roclite 315, and several pairs of the trailroc 245 and 255, I stopped running on inov-8’s. So this new model I will have to try now.

And hopefully the peregrine 11 review will be out soon. Need to decide whether the new model is worth it or grab a discounted pair of the 10’s as they are on sale now.

Thanks for all the reviews.

Cam said...

I just got a pair of the G270s last week and immediately took them out for a 18 mile technical trail run. They really are something special on both flats/road and rocky trails. I am stoked to see that it is highly reccomended by the RTR crew as well!

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about something (usually the price of review subjects) i cant tell you
how much i appreciate and use these types of articles.
thank you all very much, and please stay safe.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks so much! Yes indeed many of these marvels are pricey and I wish as Atreyu is starting to show that if you remove all the extraneous in materials and marketing prices can be lower.
Sam, Editor

kez traynor said...

What great round-up for 2020. Good to see some Topo athletic shoes making an appearance and surprised by the lack of La Sportiva or Altras. Any reason they didn't make the cut? Will be looking out for some Inov-8 terraultra G270 but am a little reluctant as always found Inov-8 a little narrow in the toe box. Cam or any of the experts enlighten me on this and how durable they are? Seem to shred the uppers on most of my shoes.

Chris Wise said...

I ran the most in the Hoka Speedgoat EVO, but the Brooks Catamount, which I picked up in October is my 2020 trail shoe of the year. The Catamount is light and fast while giving me enough cushion to protect my bones (I am 48, so bones hurt more). Runner up is the Saucony Peregrine 10. It was a lifesaver on a few runs I did at Frozen Head this year. I did have a 100 miles in the Nike Pegasus Trail 2 and while I loved the midsole, I have never tripped more in my life while running. After a face plant I have given up on them.

Just curious any rumors of a new Speedgoat EVO? Either an update or new colorway would be nice.

Chad Payne said...

The Terraultra 270’s are well worthy of the hype. I hadn’t run in Inov-8 in three years after an underwhelming experience in the X-Talon 230’s but I knew I had to pick up the 270’s after reading RTR’s overwhelmingly positive review. Also, shout out for Xodus 10 which I’ve put 600 plus miles in over two pairs and counting. Both are great shoes but the 270 is truly something special. Looking forward to the 2021 trail crop - thanks for the thorough 2020 recap!

Marcel said...

@kez traynor: thank you for your kind words. Regarding the G270 some comments from someone who has a wide forefoot too and for the same reason passed on Inov-8 for a couple of years (i was not in the G270 test team but bought it privately at release date and run approx. 200km in the so far): for an Inov-8 shoe, it does have a relatively wide toebox. For further information regarding Inov-8 sizing and their internal fitting-scale (the G270 falls into their widest category), have a look at my review of the Inov-8 Mudclaw G260 V2 (

The width of the toexbox is comparable to the Salomon Sense Pro 4, while the upper of the Salomon is more flexible. As far as durability is concerned, I consider the G270 very durable. The upper is very robust and dense, compared to a Salomon, for example. In my upcoming best-of 2020 article you will see some current pictures of my pair of G270. They have almost no wear down - especially not in the forefoot, where Salomons often get material problems in the outside area of the forefoot. Best, Marcel

Hubert said...

My absolute favourites are Inov-8 G270 and Salomon sense pro 4. I use them about 90% on my trails and in all conditions. And I bought tmnen after the first video reviews here on RTR one of the best website for trailshoe informations.

On very technical trails and muddy conditions I take the Peregrine 10 which is a perfect allrounder but delivers not the same amount of running pleasure as the above mentioned shoes. I am waiting for the Nr. 11 review.

Robbiw said...

Looking forward to your Best 2021 Trail (and "Road") reviews. Any chance your reviewers could also rank their top three in each category in addition to their top picks done in the past? Gives us readers a bit better idea of the relative merits of the category's best as seen by each runner/reviewer. Thanks to Sam and the team for becoming the benchmark of reviews for all things running-gear related.

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks Robbie! Much appreciated by me and our great team. That is a great idea to 1,2,3 rank in categories. We could also then due a ranked choice score for each category.
Sam, Editor