Runblogger Reader Survey Results: Top Trail Running Shoes of 2013

Last week I posted results of the Runblogger reader survey of top road running shoes of 2013. Today we move on to results for top trail shoes.

A total of 233 individuals submitted a total of 452 votes (each person could submit up to 3 shoes). As with the road shoe survey, I have pooled shoes by model, and if you’d like to see the raw data with breakdown by model versions you can access an Excel spreadsheet here.

We’ll start with the breakdown of the share of votes by brand:

Runblogger Top Trail Shoes - Brands

Unlike in the road shoe survey, there was no overwhelming winner here. Merrell came out on top, followed closely by New Balance, Inov-8, and Altra. That these four brands came out on top may be a reflection of the more minimal bias of this blog.

Now for individual shoe results. Below are the top 21 trail shoe models with number of votes (the full list can be viewed here). You can click on the shoe images in the table to view a review of that shoe (where we haven’t reviewed the current version of a particular shoe yet, I’ve linked to the most recent model review).


Rank

Running Shoe

# Votes

#1

 Altra Lone Peak 2

Altra Lone Peak

28 votes

#2

New Balance MT110

New Balance MT110

26 votes

#3

Skechers GoBionic Trail

Skechers GoBionic Trail

19 votes

#4

Merrell Trail Glove

Merrell Trail Glove

18 votes

#5

Merrell Mix Master 2

Merrell Mix Master

17 votes

#6

Merrell Ascend Glove

Merrell Ascend Glove

15 votes

#7

Inov-8 Trailroc 245

Inov-8 Trailroc 245

14 votes

#8

Saucony Peregrine 3

Saucony Peregrine 3

13 votes

#8 (tie)

Brooks Cascadia

Brooks Cascadia

13 votes

#10

(tie)

Pearl Izumi Trail N1

Pearl Izumi Trail N1

12 votes

#10

(tie)

Brooks PureGrit 2

Brooks PureGrit

12 votes

#10

(tie)

Altra Superior

Altra Superior

12 votes

#13 (tie)

Salomon Sense MantraSalomon Sense Mantra

10 votes

#13 (tie)

Inov-8 Trailroc 235

Inov-8 Trailroc 235

10 votes

#15 (tie)

Salomon Sense Ultra

Salomon Sense Ultra

8 votes

#15 (tie)

New Balance MT1010

New Balance MT1010

8 votes

#15 (tie)

Montrail Fluid Flex

Montrail Fluid Flex

8 votes

#15 (tie)

Hoka Stinson Trail

Hoka Stinson Evo

8 votes

#19

(tie)

Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail

Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail

7 votes

#19

(tie)

Nike Terra Kiger

Nike Terra Kiger

7 votes

#19

(tie)

La Sportiva Helios

La Sportiva Helios

7 votes


A few observations on these results:

1. I expected Hoka would come out higher than they did given their current popularity, but again that may be a reflection of the sample being primarily readers of this blog who prefer lower profile shoes. However, a couple of very positive Hoka reviews were posted here last year, Nate (my main trail shoe reviewer) is a big fan, and I wrote about how Hokas allowed my wife to return to running. Given this all of this, I’m a bit surprised they didn’t come out higher. To be honest, if I’d guessed at the top 3 before looking at the results, I would have picked one of the Hokas to be there. If we do this again for 2014 I suspect Hoka will dominate, we’ll see.

2. These results were a bit more predictable to me than the road shoe results. There aren’t a lot of missing shoes that I would have expected to appear in the top 20, and this partly might be due to the fact that trail right now seems to be dominated by either Hoka-style maximally cushioned shoes (particularly for the Ultra crowd) or lower drop, lighter shoes like many on this list. There also aren’t as many trail shoe models on the market, so the pool to choose from is smaller.

3. The Altra Lone Peak surprised me at #1, I probably would have guessed the NB MT110 (even though my pair caused me a lot of trouble and I never reviewed it myself). That being said, I have had a lot of people rave to me about the Lone Peak, and it’s one of Nate’s favorite shoes. I’ve never even seen it in person!

4. I’ve never run in 12 of the shoes on this list, so my own bias may play less of a role here than for the road shoe results. Nate has reviewed many of these for me so the results may be more a reflection of his preferences, which seem to be in line with what is popular in the Ultra trail world.

If you have any additional thoughts, feel free to hare in the comments!

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. I can’t say I could be happier with the fit and feel of the lone peak. They don’t give me blisters. I have run on loose gravel, rocks, packed trail, snow ice ect. Love these way better that he MT-110 MT-1010(junk)
    Now that they have a color that doesn’t make me look like Ronald McDonald I am thrilled

  2. Hoka also may be lower based on sticker price. I know I’m curious to try them but for the price of one pair of those I can get 2 pairs of 110′s (about).

    • Totally agree. Hokas are good shoes, but I won’t buy more than one pair a year because they are such bad value. The exposed midsole design that makes them so cushy also makes them break down faster, so the price is even harder to justify.

      Any idea as to number of women vs. men responding to the survey? I ask because there are 18 votes for the Merrell Trail Glove, but not a single one for the women’s version, the Pace Glove. Do you see any gender bias in the results?

    • I agree, they are very expensive. And, my wife blew out the uppers on two pairs of Bondi’s in less than 50 miles on each pair. Not a good $ to mile ratio!

  3. Not too surprised at the top 5 rankings by manufacturer/brand, although I thought for sure Altra and Salomon would come in ahead of Inov-8, from my own experience of what I see on people’s feet when I hit the trails. I voted for the Merrell Trail Glove 2, if I remember correctly.

    Also, looking at the full list of shoes that received votes, it’s interesting to see so many “non-trail” shoes get nods as trail favorites. I actually had half a mind to put in a vote for the Merrell Bare Access 2 when the poll ran, as it’s performed well for me on groomed, not too-technical trails, but I wasn’t sure if it would count so I passed on voting for it.

  4. So this is our list I wonder how this stacks up against a national list of trail shoes by sale?

  5. I just got a new pair of Pearl Izumi EM Trail yesterday. Got them based on reviews including Nate’s, and price (they were on 6pm for like $75). Also in the running were the Lone Peak, Trailroc 245, and Helios, but the PI won on price (I’m cheap). The Hoka’s weren’t even in the running because they are just too ugly and too expensive for me.

  6. I’ve never run on trails. How important is it that you wear actual trail running shoes? Wouldn’t a pair of Adios Boost or something like that be good enough most of the time?

    • Depends on the trail (and weather conditions), really.

      If we’re talking dry, well-groomed, hard-packed trails with not a lot of inclines, I think any “road shoe” would probably work just as well as a trail-specific shoe.

      On rocky trails though, and trails that require running on loose earth, in mud, or on wet rock, I find the more pronounced tread patterns and lugs of trail shoes to be very helpful. There’s a fine balance needed to achieve the ideal lug spacing/tread pattern though, it can’t just be “aggressive”–some shoes end up trapping stones, twigs, and other debris between the lugs and in the tread pattern, which can be uncomfortable.

  7. “That these four brands came out on top may be a reflection of the more minimal bias of this blog.”

    Hi everyone, this remark stood out to me after reading this particular post. I was curious if you as readers tend to gravitate towards minimalist shoes for the trail (or the road) – and thus the voting reflects this.

    Pete, I was wondering if you have discovered this among readership. Do most readers of Runblogger lean towards more minimal shoes even though companies like Hoka, Altra, and Brooks are moving more towards models with substantially more cushioning (e.g. the Olympus, the Transcend, and any Hoka model)?

    • Yes, my audience definitely leans more minimal, likely because that is my own preference and thus is what I most often write about. You’ll rarely see a conventional running shoe reviewed here because I don’t like running in them. By conventional I’m referring more to the 12mm drop stiff soled trainers that most runners wear rather than things like the Hokas or Altras.

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