5 of the Best Zero Drop Trail Running Shoes

Are you looking for the best zero-drop trail running shoes on the market? Running is a great way to lose unwanted weight, loosen muscles, gain a clear head and take in the natural elements.

If you live in the city, then you may have to run along pavements or hard surfaces, or uninteresting roads. This does not offer you much in the way of scenery and taking in the fresh air. When you run in the city, it is more likely that you will be breathing in exhaust fumes rather than fresh air. 

Many runners have switched pavement running for trail running. The benefits are pretty outrageous in how they outweigh each other. It may seem easier to stick to the trail that you know in your local park or down your street, however switching to a trail provides several advantages.

If you live in an urban area, then it means you may not be able to do this every day. It does mean you have to be better at planning.

Best Zero Drop Trail Running Shoes

IMAGE NAME OUR RATING Link
Merrell Men's Vapor Glove 3 Trail Runner [rating stars= "4.3"]
New Balance Minimus 10v1 Trail Shoe [rating stars= "3.0"]
Altra Men's Superior 3.5 Sneaker [rating stars= "4.4"]
Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2 Sneaker [rating stars= "4.3"]
Vibram Men's KSO-M Trail Runner [rating stars= "4.1"]

In a Hurry

Are you in a hurry and need to know what type of shoes to get? You have heard that zero drop shoes are the best when it comes to trail running but you have no idea how to choose the best pair. You will need to look for shoes with great grip. You will need this to run with confidence.

Look for reinforcements in the shoe. Trail running can be hard on your shoes and since zero drop shoes simulate running barefoot, you will need to make sure you are well protected. Look for rubber or nylon reinforcements around the toe box, heel counter and the bottom of the upper. 

Also, look for how well protected your feet will be against water and moisture. You can get shoes with a waterproof shell, or shoes that allow water or moisture to pass through them. Either way, you want to keep your feet dry, and trails have different aspects that can be challenging. So make sure when you go out onto one, you are well prepared.

Our Top Pick

Our Top Pick

One of our favourite picks on the market is the Altra Men’s Superior 3.5 Sneaker. It has a rubber sole and the upper is made of quick-dry air mesh.

Our Round Up of the Best Zero Drop Trail Running Shoes

Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 3 Trail Runner 

The Vapor Glove 3 is a fairly good looking shoe. It comes in various colours that you can choose from. The upper part of the shoes is made up of mesh. This provides you with breathability when you are running. There are no visible indications of poor workmanship when you have the shoes in your hands. Once you have the shoes on you will be thrilled with the fact that they are lightweight shoes.

No one wants to have that excess weight on them when they are on the trail. The soles are made out of rubber. They are designed in such a way that will deliver a lot of traction when you are running. You have 2mm lugs to facilitate this. This is especially important when you are on a trail seeing as the terrain will vary. 

One of the things that we all worry about when running on a trail is underfoot protection. You will be pleased to know that Merrell has something in place to remedy this potential problem. This comes in the form of the Trailprotect pad. It is designed to deliver underfoot protection.

Once that concern is out of the way, you can appreciate the other features that the shoes offer. The front of the shoe is slightly raised and padded in the toe region. This provides additional protection from knocks that are bound to come about when running. The outsoles of the shoes are made of Vibram TC5.

Pros


The shoes are very comfortable.

They are available in various colours.

They are aesthetically pleasing.

They are lightweight.

They provide great traction.

There is reasonable toe protection.

The shoes are flexible.

Cons


There is not enough arch support.

Do not always run true to size.

Not suitable for wide feet.

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New Balance Minimus 10v1 Trail Shoe

The one thing that we or anyone else cannot criticise New Balance for is the looks of the shoes. They are beautiful shoes. More so when you have a pair that has contrasting colours. The upper part of the shoes is made out of synthetic material. It is a mesh sort of design. You are bound to get a high degree of breathability due to this feature.

This is a shoe that delivers both the performance and looks. One of the things that set these shoes apart is their off-road capabilities. The soles have varying lug depths. They have flex grooves to deliver great traction regardless of the surfaces that you are running on. The traction ensures that your balance is not compromised. 

New Balance has ensured that there is lasting comfort. They are lightweight shoes that provide great support when running. Your midfoot is wrapped in a way that holds your foot in place without robbing it of freedom of movement. This ensures that your foot is steady as you run.

There is no slipping and sliding of feet within the shoes. We did not encounter any issues where size is concerned. However, the advice from the manufacturers is to always lean to a larger size, if in doubt. You may also want to take socks into consideration when making your choice.  There is a minimal drop of 4mm between the forefoot and hindfoot.

Pros


They come with odour-resistant treatment to reduce odour.

They are very breathable.

They are available in half sizes.

There is ample room in the toe box.

They are very durable.

Can be worn with or without socks.

Cons


They come on the higher end of our pricing scale.

Some pairs run narrow.

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Altra Men’s Superior 3.5 Sneaker 

Perhaps you prefer a bit more underfoot cushioning when you race down the trails? Look no further. This may just be the perfect shoe for you. It carries an iconic look that has been carried by other brands such as Reebok, Ador and so on.

The fact that the look is still going strong shows us that there is something to it. The upper part of the shoes is made of textile and synthetic material. Thicker rubber soles have been used in this case. They guarantee you some durability over time. The shoes are zero drop.

The shaft of the shoes is low-top from the arch of the foot. What you will find with these shoes is that they allow your feet to maintain their natural positioning. This is perfect for those that want to posture benefits that come with using barefoot shoes, without having to go with barefoot shoes. The midsoles are EVA / A-bound blend with inner flex. The upper part of the shoes is made of quick-dry air mesh.

Pros


The shoes are zero drop.

There is a lot of rooms in the toe box.

The soles are very durable.

They are very comfortable.

There are four colours to choose from.

They are suitable for wide feet.

Cons


The shoes are not as responsive as we would have liked.

The laces could be longer.

The rock guard limits flexibility.

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Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2 Sneaker

This is not a new shoe for us. It is one that we have previously covered. As such we will not attempt to sell you on the looks of the shoes. You can see this for yourself. Let us go straight to the features. The upper part of the shoes is made out of a mix of textile and synthetic.

On the forefoot, you will find a mesh-like material. This makes it highly breathable, which is important when running in warm conditions. The sole is made out of rubber. There is a low-top arch for the shaft measurements. Inov-8 has designed this with speed training in mind. The good thing about that is that there is great traction.

You will also be pleased to find that the shoes are lightweight. They have improved the design and weight from previous iterations. There is ample room in the toe box area. Both soles and upper part are flexible. Your feet will have the freedom to move as they naturally should. The shoes are also zero drop.

Pros


The shoes provide good traction.

They are lightweight.

They have a stylish design to go with the features.

There is great room in the toe box.

There are several colours to choose from.

Cons


They are not ideal for wide feet.

They do not always run true to size.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICE

Vibram Men’s KSO-M Trail Runner 

Where there is a foot fitting form required, not many can match this one. I will be the first to admit that the design is not for everyone. The upper part of the shoes is made out of textile and synthetics. It is a very flexible sort of material. It is resistant to abrasion. What you will find in the way that the shoes are designed is that you may even forget that you are wearing them. It is a minimalist design and is lightweight. 

The soles of the shoes are made out of rubber. Each toe is protected by the rubber. This is essential when hitting the trails. The shaft measures low-top from the arch. Another thing that we loved about it is that it is machine-washable.

Pros


The shoes are incredibly lightweight.

They fit like a glove (pun intended).

They provide protection to the toes.

There is great traction and grip.

They are very comfortable.

Cons


They are not ideal for those with wide feet.

Somewhat pricey.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICE

Buyer’s Guide

Firstly, you will build up more muscles. When you mix firm hardpack trails with mud, flat routes, and hills, you get your body to work for way more muscle groups. You get to work your legs, your core, your feet, and your ankles amongst other muscles. You will also notice that your balance will improve as you run more and more trails. 

As you run, each time your foot strikes the ground you are generally hitting the same muscles. This means you are more at risk of injury than when you run on a trail. Running on a trail allows your feet to hit different muscles each time you hit the ground. Your gait and foot are different each time you hit the ground. You spread the impact across your foot. This means you reduce your risk of injury.

Also, one of the great things about trail running is that it has immense benefits on your mental health. Nature-based activities are known to lower stress and anxiety. The mood-improving benefits you get from exercising, are maximized by trail running. If you find yourself in a negative mood spiral, trail running can help you through this.

It helps improve your mood in more ways than you may think. Studies have also shown that trail running can help you live longer! If you run to maintain or to lose weight, then trail running will be a great way to do it. Research shows that it encourages your body to burn between 60 to 90calories more per hour. 

Now that you know the benefits of trail running, you may want to start looking into the type of clothes and gear you need to maximize your run. This includes the type of shoes you wear. When you run on a pavement or a well-groomed trail then normal running shoes may do the trick, ) it is all subjective to your needs). However going out on the trail, with various elements thrown in such as moisture, rocks, plants and many other elements you will find on a natural trail.

There are a couple of factors to look for in a good trail running shoe. A shoe with zero drop will be a great buy. When trail running, you do not need to have a thick layer of foam or cushioning. The lower the shoe profile, the more stable you will be on even ground. This is also because your foot has a natural way in which it adapts to the ground, and zero drop shoes will allow this.

Types of zero-drop trail running shoes available. 

There are three main types of trail running shoes with zero drop. Silicone rubber zero drop running shoes are the best for zero drop shoes. They are thin and are the normal suggestion for runners who are training. They are not the best recommendation for trail running. The downside to these shoes is that they have no breathability and this can increase foot odour, moisture, and irritation.

You can also find shoes made of rubber and composite. These are more commonly known as performance shoes. The shoe is made of rubber technology and this makes the shoe super flexible. More flexible than most designs. The shoe needs some time to be broken into and the wearer will need some training to wear it. 

You will also find synthetic shoes. Synthetic zero drop shoes will give the runner protection and control when running. The material makes the runner feel in control and much more balanced but also giving the feeling of being very close to the ground. 

What shoe is best for you?

It is important to consider a couple of different factors when choosing your new pair of zero drop shoes. This includes knowing your running style. Your running mechanics, which could be under pronation, pronation, overpronation, and forefoot running matter a great deal in choosing the right shoe. 

Sole technology

Also, take the time to find out how the shoe is made and what has gone into it. The sole technology of the shoe can differ from one shoe manufacturer to the other. Knowing the trail that you will be running, will help you in choosing the features that you need to have on your zero-drop trail running shoes. 

Weight

The material will also determine how heavy or light the shoe is. You want to get a shoe that is light enough for you to blaze your trail your way, and with ease.

Flexibility

Look out for how flexible the shoe is, and the amount of traction it gives you. You want to get a shoe that will offer you the best and keep you safe and balanced.

Final Thoughts

Switching up your normal trail can be necessary. There are so many benefits that come with it. Just make sure that you look over all the features that come with the shoe you intend to buy. At the end of the day, it is about personal preference.

What makes the best trail running shoe for you, and also what trail do you intend to run. Zero drop shoes will give you the closest feel to the ground, just like you were running barefoot. This can be a great deal in running several trails. The muscles in your feet are alive and working the way they should be. We hope our top picks help you buy the best shoe to suit your needs. Happy shopping!

Hi there. This is Clare. Dave and I manage this site. We are outdoor enthusiasts. Most of the content is about products that we love using or have researched.
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