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Runblogger Reader Survey Results: Top Trail Running Shoes of 2014

Last week I posted the results of the 2014 Runblogger reader survey of top road running shoes. In this post we move on to the trail shoe results (delayed a bit by a stomach virus that has ripped through my house over the past week…).

For the trail shoe survey, I received a total of 491 shoe nominations from over 250 individuals (some individuals only voted for one or two shoes rather than three). I removed any votes where a brand was entered without a specific shoe model (there were a lot of these), and have also eliminated any duplicate votes by the same person.

Before I present the results, I will say again that these are intended to show preferences among readers of this blog. I tend to review shoes on the more minimal end of the spectrum (mostly racing flats and lightweight, moderately cushioned trainers), so there is clearly a bias present. I make no claim that this survey represents broader shoe preferences among runners.

Let’s start with the the share of votes by brand:

Trail Shoe Brand Pie Chart

Unlike the road shoe survey, where Saucony ran away with first place, the brand shares are more level for the trail shoe survey. Altra takes over first place from Merrell with a 12% share, and Inov-8 jumps from #3 to #2 with 10% share. Nike makes the biggest leap from 2% to 9% share, largely due to the popularity of two models (see below). New Balance dropped out of the top 3, likely due to the fact that version 2 of the MT110 model was not as big a hit as version 1. I was a bit surprised that Hoka did not come out higher given their popularity among the ultrarunners.

Now for individual shoe results. Below are the top 20 trail shoe models (22 actually due to ties) with number of votes. For this list I pooled shoe versions and ranked them by model since there were fewer total votes compared to the road shoe survey. If you’re curious to see the raw list of shoe votes, you can view it in a Google Spreadsheet here.

You can click on the shoe names in the table below to view a review of the most recent version of that shoe (where available).


Rank

Running Shoe

# Votes

#1

Nike-Terra-Kiger-2_thumb3Nike Terra Kiger

25 votes

#2

Altra-Lone-Peak-2.0_thumb3Altra Lone Peak

24 votes

#3

Altra-Superior-2.0_thumb3Altra Superior

19 votes

#4

(tie)

Nike-Wildhorse-2_thumb3Nike Wildhorse

18 votes

#4

(tie)

Saucony-Peregrine-4_thumb3Saucony Peregrine

18 votes

#6

(tie)

Brooks-Cascadia-10_thumb3Brooks Cascadia

16 votes

#6

(tie)

Inov-8-Trailroc-245_thumb3Inov-8 Trailroc 245

16 votes

#6

(tie)

Pearl-Izumi-Trail-N1_thumb3Pearl Izumi Trail N1

16 votes

#6

(tie)

Skechers-GoRun-Ultra_thumb3Skechers GoRun Ultra

16 votes

#10

(tie)

Brooks-PureGrit-3_thumb3Brooks PureGrit

15 votes

#10

(tie)

Salomon-Sense-3-Ultra_thumb3Salomon Sense Ultra

15 votes

#12

Pearl-Izumi-Trail-N25Pearl Izumi Trail N2

13 votes

#13

(tie)

Altra-Olympus_thumb3Altra Olympus

12 votes

#13

(tie)

Merrell-Bare-Access-Trail_thumb3Merrell Bare Access Trail

12 votes

#15

(tie)

Merrell-Trail-Glove_thumb3Merrell Trail Glove

11 votes

#15

(tie)

Salomon-Sense-Pro_thumb3Salomon Sense Pro

11 votes

#17

(tie)

Hoka-Stinson-ATR_thumb3Hoka Stinson

9 votes

#17

(tie)

New-Balance-MT110_thumb3New Balance MT110

9 votes

#19

(tie)

Hoka-Huaka_thumb3Hoka Huaka

8 votes

#19

(tie)

Inov-8-Trailroc-235_thumb3Inov-8 Trailroc 235

8 votes

#19

(tie)

Inov-8-X-Talon-212_thumb3 Inov-8 X-Talon 212

8 votes

#19

(tie)

New-Balance-980-Trail_thumb3New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail

8 votes


A few observations on these results:

1. Kind of surprising to see Nike at the top of a trail shoe survey! Or maybe not – I’ve been hearing raves about the Nike Terra Kiger and Wildhorse for the past year+, and both are in the top 5 here. I don’t run a lot of trail miles myself, but I couldn’t resist giving one of these a try, so I bought the Wildhorse II a few weeks ago. I’ve been running in them on snow and they live up to the hype – super comfortable shoe, solid traction, great cushioning, and they look great.

2. Altra continues to perform well here with two models in the top 5. The Lone Peak was the top trail shoe in last year’s survey, and the Superior jumps 7 spots to number 3.

3. I expected to see more Hoka models here, especially since the Hoka Clifton appeared in the top three of my road shoe survey. For trail, we only have the Stinson at #17 and the Huaka at # 19. This could be a reflection of the bias of this survey toward more minimal models, but we do also see the maximally cushioned Altra Olympus and Skechers GoRun Ultra both ranking here above the two Hoka models.

4. Merrell was the top trail shoe brand by vote share last year, but they drop a few ranks this year. The Trail Glove still shows up here, one of the few truly minimal models left, and the Bare Access Trail did well. However, none of the new AllOut line are represented – in fact, there were very few votes for any shoe in this collection. The Mix Master and Ascend Glove, both of which were top 10 last year are both gone.

5. The New Balance MT110 has a strong fan base, and most votes specified the old version 1 rather than the update. The latter seems to have suffered from a poor last change and does not appear to have the following of the original.

6. Inov-8 does trail well, and the Trailroc line continues to be popular in this survey. The luggy X-Talon 212 is the only shoe here that might be suitable for mud.

That’s all I have to say, would love to hear any comments you have on these results!

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit petermlarson.com.

Comments

  1. I think I gave a vote to the Merrell Bare Access Trail that I wanted to take back as soon as I got my second pair. The raised arch section is really prominent and uncomfortable, even though my arch is medium high. I probably didn’t notice it in the first pair because I wasn’t putting in my usual miles at the time

  2. Knowing how well the Hoka Cliftons did in your road shoe survey, I think the Challenger ATRs will be up there in the voting next year in the trail category. They came out too late in the year (and at REI only for now) to be a factor in the voting. I have over 500 miles in mine and they are my favorite running shoes of all time. Hoka just needs to use a durable upper fabric for the Challengers be perfect for me.

  3. Edit… “more durable” upper fabric (as in taking more flex cycles)

  4. Not surprised that the Merrell Trail Glove remains a popular choice among the site’s readers despite the market moving away from “truly minimal” shoes. It just works for me—it’s plenty durable, and it’s versatile enough to use for a variety of workouts—and its still my go-to shoe for sub-10k runs.

    As for the Ascend Glove, I think part of the problem was that it really didn’t separate itself from the Bare Access or the Bare Access Trail, and I think it makes sense that Merrell is discontinuing it in favor of those two models. I still use mine regularly, but I have to admit that upper construction aside, it doesn’t feel significantly different from the Bare Access in terms of ride or cushioning.

    Looks like Merrell’s AllOut collection flopped with the site’s readers. Was never interested in them from the get-go. I wonder how popular they are with the hiking community, seeing as how they were positioned as a sort of trail runner/light hiking shoe hybrid?

  5. Also, a question for Peter (or any other commenter, really): Any theories as to why the votes are more spread out between the manufacturers when it comes to trail shoes as compared to road shoes? There’s no single manufacturer that can be described as being as relatively dominant in the trail shoe category the way Saucony is in the road shoe poll.

    • I think a reason could have to do with where trail shoes are purchased vs where road shoes are purchased. Road shoes can be purchased at every Dick’s, Sports Authority and local running store. In those stores, Saucony has a LOT of shelf space so beginner runners buy their first pair of “real” running shoes and odds are they are Saucony or another of the big 4 shoe companies. You get hooked, and continue to buy. Trail shoes simply don’t have the shelf space at brick and mortar, so the purchases are done online, where the variety is more… varietied.

    • There are probably two main reasons:
      1) As Pete have mentioned in the beging – most Runblogger reviews are on road shoes and readers prefer those shoes in the survey. There aren’t so many recomendations for trail shoes.
      2) There is a big diversity in surface of trails. Every shoe (or manufacture) is designed for specific surface (Inov8 for mud, Nike for easy and dry paths etc.) Because readers of this blog live in different places, it is natural that they prefer different brands.
      Btw. readers of Runblogger are probably mainly road runners who sometimes opt for a trail – probably some sort of city-trail or lighter trail. That might be the main reason for popularity of Nike shoes.

    • Fewer trail shoes out there to choose from would be one explanation, and the mainstream brands typically only have a few models each so the smaller brands compete more here.

      • Fewer trail models compared to road shoe models in the major manufacturers’ line-ups certainly makes sense as an explanation for the phenomenon.

        Also, thanks to Mic and Martin for their insights.

  6. I’m sad to see the Merrell Pace Glove 3 and Trail Glove 3 becoming less minimal than the previous iterations. Granted, its only by 1mm but still that can make a pretty big difference when you’re comparing 9.5mm to 10.5mm stack height.

    I put over 2500 miles on my first pair of Pace Glove 2, currently around 800 miles on my second pair and I recently picked up 2 more pairs to stash away so I should be good for a while at least =)

    The ascend glove was overpriced and lacked the lateral flexibility and proprioception which makes the trail/pace gloves great. I ran in them a few times then relegated them to wearing while I run errands.

    I wish I could wear vivobarefoot because they seem to be one of the few brands which isn’t moving away from the barefoot/minimalist trend (for obvious reasons). I love their trail freak shoe and alot of their other models actually but unfortunately they are all too wide for me to wear comfortably.

  7. I’ve started running more trails this year (training for my first ultra) and really like the Merrell Bare Access Trail. I love how Merrell’s shoes lock down the midfoot, and it’s got just enough cushion. That said, I just ordered a pair of Terra Kiger 2s (want an option with a bit of a drop), so I’m glad to see they’re the top pick.

  8. My best trail shoes are my retired Nike Pegasus..they do get chewed up pretty quick though…I have completed some tough runs in them like the Bonds in the White Mtns

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