If you’ve never really researched running shoes, and specifically vegan trail running shoes, you’re probably finding yourself stepping into a whole other world. Most of us are very familiar with mainstream shoe brands like Adidas, Nike and Under Armour.
However, when you start looking at shoes, the best shoes that avid runners recommend, the mainstream brands are most often nowhere to be found.
Instead you’re met with brands like Hoka, Xero, Salewa and more. If this makes you feel like completely overwhelmed on what brand, let alone what shoe, is the best for what you’re looking for – don’t worry, you’re not alone. The good news for you is I’ve fallen in love with trail running over the last few years and I’m here to walk you through what to look for, what brands are best and which shoes are vegan.
My whole life I’ve loved to lift weights, but when it came to running – not so much. While I would do it for the cardio, it was grudgingly so. Then I found the wonderful world of trail running. Running while being completely distracted by unending terrain and scenery changes. That I could get into.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of trail running, sooner rather than later you’re going to want a good pair of trail running shoes. Sure, on really flat and well maintained trails you can get away with a regular pair of tennis shoes. You may even wonder if Trail Running Shoes are even Worth It?
Short answer is, yes, they are. If you’re going to be running on trails with changes in elevation, rugged terrain, or if you plan on running when it’s wet and/or muddy on the trail then you definitely need a pair of trail running shoes.
Trail running shoes come in 3 varieties – trail running, hybrid and minimalist. Trail running shoes provide stability, support, cushion and protection from everything you’ll encounter on a trail. Minimalist shoes provide, well, a minimal amount of those things. They are designed to mimic barefoot running as closely as possible. Hybrid shoes are exactly what they sound like as well, a middle ground between traditional trail runners and minimalist. We’ve selected shoes from each variety for our list.
There is a good amount of options out there for vegan trail running shoes, but we’ve narrowed it down to what we consider the best 7. How did we go about doing that? About 9 hours of researching and reading through reviews, both from industry experts and customers from multiple websites.
Could you do all this research yourself? Sure, you could. If you don’t have anything better to do for the next two days, go for it. Or, you could spend 10 minutes and use all the information we took all that time compiling.
This is a good time to mention Zenful Hiking is reader supported. This article contains affiliate links which means clicking on and making purchases could lead to, at no extra cost to you, us earning a small commission.
Without any further ado, here – in no particular order – are the best vegan trail running shoes available on the market today.
Our Favorite Men’s Vegan Trail Running Shoes
Salewa Men’s Ultra Train 2
Price: Starting at $74 | Weight: 11oz | Arch Support: Neutral | Toebox: Roomy | Cushioning: High
If you’re new to the trail running world you may have never heard of Salewa. Salewa is an Italian company that has been making shoes and outdoor gear for nearly a century. Runners and hikers who are Salewa fans absolutely swear by them.
After pouring over multiple websites and reading hundreds of reviews, the shoe I found consistently at or near the top of experts lists and ratings is the Salewa Ultra Train 2. The tread of these bad boys will give you grip on the trail that is second to none.
In addition, they are light and breathable and provide extra protection around the toe and heel to protect you from roots and rocks and anything else you may encounter on the trail (except bears, I repeat, they are not likely to help against bears. Or lions… well, you get the point)
On the downside, while the Ultra Train 2’s will protect against some puddles, but they are not fully waterproof. The shoes are considered to be a pretty stiff shoe. Perfect for rugged terrain, but if you’re going for a run on a more casual trail you may want to opt for more of a hybrid shoe.
However, if you are going to out to tackle some real deal trails and need a shoe that is comfortable and going to hold up great and attack even the roughest terrain, this is your shoe.
Xero Shoes Prio
Price: $94 | Weight: 7.4oz | Arch Support: Neutral | Toebox: Roomy | Cushioning: Minimal
Xero shoes are a relatively new company (founded in 2009) out of Boulder, Colorado that specializes in minimalist shoes. Minimalist shoes are basically the closest you can come to running barefoot.
The Xero Shoes Prio is their best trail running style. Weighing in at only 7.4oz it’s an extremely lightweight shoe. For such a lightweight shoe I was impressed at how well people respond to the heel support. It also received high marks on it’s comfortably and it’s roomy toe box. Grip, one of the most important aspects of a good trail shoe received praise as well.
The only real downside that I noticed people have on the shoe was simply some are not a fan of the look of the shoe. I’m not a fan of the all black Prio myself, but the Black with White (pictured above) and the Lightning Blue are both good looking shoes in my opinion.
If you want to dive into the world of minimalist shoes, the Xero Shoes Prio is a great choice.
Altra Timp 1.5
Price: $99 | Weight: 11oz | Arch Support: Neutral | Toebox: Roomy | Cushioning: High | Heel to Toe Drop: 0
The Altra Timp 1.5 has perfectly hit the sweet spot between cushioning and support. The Timp is a zero drop trail shoe, meaning the toes and heel are the same height off the ground. The idea behind a zero drop shoe is that it mimics the same mechanics as running barefoot. People loved the comfort of the shoe, the fit and the roomy toe box.
The Timp also is rugged enough to handle itself on the trail and holds up well over time and distance. Both the lugs and the upper are quite durable. You do sacrifice some lightness for the extra protection. At 11 ounces, they are one of the heavier shoes out of our 8.
The Altra Timp shines most on well-maintained trails and longer distances. These are truly designed to be trail runners. For more technical trails or going off-trail you may find something else that is a better fit for those type of trails. The Timp is one of best all-around shoes on our list and when you couple it with a price tag of under $100 and you what you end up with is one of the best values on our list.
Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR
Price: $239 | Weight: 9.4oz | Arch Support: High Arch | Toebox: Neutral | Cushioning: Moderate to High | Heel to Toe Drop: 5mm
The Hoka One One Challenger 5 is another great all-around trail running shoe. The Hoka is super lightweight, only 9.4oz, has great cushion, fits well with a roomy toebox. As someone that continuously fights plantar fasciitis, the Hoka is the best shoe out of our 7 for anyone that has high arches and needs that high arch support to protect against plantar fasciitis.
The Hoka is best fit for well maintained trails and even does well on concrete if you need to take them out on the road in a pinch. They are a great long distance shoe due to the cushion and lightness they provide.
The only downside to the Challenger is the high price tag. However, Hoka owners are some of the most passionate customers on the planet. People who own and wear this brand, swear by this brand.
Merrell Agility Synthesis Flex
Price: $110 | Weight: 8.5oz | Arch Support: Neutral | Toebox: Roomy | Cushioning: Moderate | Heel to Toe Drop: 6mm
The Merrell Agility Synthesis Flex is a great lightweight shoe built perfectly for light to moderate trails. They are very quick to break in and at 8.5oz, one of the lightest shoes on our list. One of the Merrell Flex’s biggest strengths are the breathability of shoe. This helps keep the foot dry and smelling great.
The tread holds up well, even on hard surfaces like roads and concrete. The shoe features an EVA midsole which acts as a type of small performance booster, giving you good force transfer from foot to trail and back.
Not a lot of downsides to the Flex, but we did see comments that the mid foot runs on the narrow side. If you have a wider foot, then this is probably not the shoe for you. The toebox is on the roomy side, which may work well for some and might be too much for others. This shoe is designed for light to moderate trails and performs extremely well, however for aggressive terrain or harsh conditions it has it’s struggles.
Inov-8 X-Talon 230
Price: Starting at $75 | Weight: 8.1oz | Arch Support: Neutral | Toebox: Neutral | Cushioning: Minimal | Heel to Toe Drop: 6mm
Inov-8’s X-Talon 230 might be the most unique shoe out of our 8. On the one hand, the X-Talon is a minimalist shoe that is the second lightest on our list at just over 8 ounces. On the other hand, the X-Talon’s have ridiculous grip due to their 8mm lugs and S Grip rubber technology and are great for gripping to rocky terrain.
The X-Talon’s are pretty sturdy especially considering how light they are. They are water repellent. The durability of the shoe overall is great, however the lugs will wear much faster than the rest of the shoe.
I’d consider the X-Talon a bit of a specialty shoe. They may not be the best choice as an every day runner, but if you going to be doing some rocky trails and scaling some really vertical routes then the 230 is a great option.
Brooks Cascadia 14
Price: Starting at $129 | Weight: 10.7oz | Arch Support: Neutral | Toebox: Roomy | Cushioning: Moderate | Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm
Brooks has made some much needed improvements to it’s Cascadia model shoe with the 14. It’s lighter and sleeker than previous versions. They’ve also lowered the heel drop down to 8mm.
At 10.7 ounces, the Brooks Cascadia falls right in the middle of the pack when it comes to weight. Fits true to size. The shoe displays great traction, even on rocky and wet surfaces. The cushioning is good, but not over the top. The internal saddle system hugs the mid-foot and gives you a good sense of stability on uneven terrain.
The Brooks Cascadia is a good middle of the road, er trail, shoe in terms of weight, durability and terrain demands. It’s heavier than the really lightweight shoes, but a little tougher and more durable. If you need a shoe that can handle some difficult terrain, but still perform well on the road then the Brooks Cascadia 14 may be your shoe.
That concludes our list of the 7 best vegan trail running shoes. It’s pretty comforting to know that you don’t need to compromise your beliefs in order to get a great pair of trail running shoes.
The problem is combing through hundreds of shoes trying to figure out which shoes are vegan can be a nightmare. Hopefully this list can save you a few hours of your life finding a great trail running shoe that will not only help you dominate your favorite trail, but will be something you can be proud owning.
Whatever shoe you decide to go with, get out there and enjoy your next trail run!