Best trail running gear for summer 2023

Salomon Speedcross 6

It’s not surprising that the popularity of trail running continues to grow. After all, trail running is easier on the body (lower impact) and allows runners to experience stunning outdoor landscapes that urban environments just can’t match. The fact that, just like road running, trail running is relatively affordable in terms of gear costs only adds to its appeal–both for dedicated trail runners and for runners who hit the trails to spice up their training. That said, getting the right kit will help make the trail running experience even more enjoyable and rewarding.

Here is the best trail running gear for summer 2023.

Best for trail runners seeking a nimble shoe with exceptional traction for tough conditions.

Salomon Speedcross 6

Salomon Speedcross 6

A proven trail running shoe with solid cushioning and traction.

This shoe has been in Salomon’s line-up for six iterations, and the current version continues to offer the cushioning, protection and traction that have made it so popular over the years. The new Speedcross 6 is now lighter, has a new form-fitting upper and features an updated outsole that clears mud and debris more quickly. The Speedcross 6 uses a welded overlay construction, which minimizes weight and allows the upper to better conform to the shape of the foot. As with previous Speedcross models, Salomon has also chosen to use its Quicklace system, which provides an easily adjustable and secure closure. As mentioned earlier, the new Speedcross has an updated outsole with larger, aggressive lugs for better mud clearance while retaining the traction trail runners require in sloppy conditions. Finally, the Speedcross features a 10 mm drop with a 32 mm heel stack height and 22 mm forefoot stack height. These are solid, time-tested specs that will work for the vast majority of runners.

Best for trail runners seeking wind and light drizzle protection without compromising breathability.

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

A lightweight and highly compressible shell for inclement weather.

The Patagonia Houdini jacket is not waterproof or windproof, and yet it’s still one of the best pure running jackets on the market. Allow me to explain: during highly aerobic activities like trail running, the body generates plenty of heat and a great deal of moisture in the form of perspiration. Conventional waterproof/breathable jackets have difficulty venting this excess heat and sweat, frequently resulting in the runner overheating and getting soaked from the inside. The Houdini Jacket avoids this by using an extremely lightweight, densely woven nylon fabric that is breathable and highly wind-resistant. The addition of a DWR fabric treatment does a reasonable job of repelling light drizzle and fog without impacting breathability. Finally, the lack of any waterproof/breathable membranes also ensures the Houdini is lighter and more packable than conventional wind/rainwear. This means you can take the Houdini with you during long trail runs or when the weather looks less stable and not feel encumbered by its weight or bulk (the jacket easily stuffs into its chest pocket). Throw in an adjustable hood and elastic cuffs, and you now have the perfect just-in-case trail running jacket when the weather takes a turn.

Best for trail runners seeking more lower leg coverage when running on challenging trails.

Smartwool Performance Run Targeted Cushion Mid Crew Socks

Smartwool Performance Run Targeted Cushion Mid Crew Socks

A lightweight yet durable Merino wool sock with targeted cushioning zones.

These running-specific socks provide an exceptional foot-hugging fit, thanks to Smartwool’s sophisticated patterning. The socks offer cushioning where you need it most and have strategically-placed mesh zones for increased breathability. Smartwool uses its unique Indestructawool construction technology that ensures added durability in the high-wear zones. The socks’ high wool content provides excellent temperature regulation as well as natural odor resistance, which helps minimize the eyewatering stench that can sometimes plague synthetic socks. What makes these socks particularly well-suited for trail running is their mid-crew (6.5”) height. This taller cut provides additional lower-leg protection from trail debris, making them a top choice for serious trail runners.

Best for trail runners seeking a no-compromise premium hydration vest for epic trail adventures.

Salomon Adv Skin 12 Set Hydration Vest

Salomon Adv Skin 12 Set Hydration Vest

A full-featured hydration vest with exceptional fit and carrying capacity.

Unlike on urban runs, where you can stop to purchase water or food or take shelter if the weather takes a turn for the worse, trail runs require you to be more self-sufficient and better prepared. And it’s during these epic trail runs where the Salomon Adv Skin 12 Set Hydration Vest really shines. Constructed with supple fabrics and a sophisticated pattern, this hydration vest hugs your body, minimizing the bounce and subsequent chafing frequently encountered when using clunkier vests. The vest features two front flask pockets as well as an insulated sleeve for a 1.5L hydration reservoir (sold separately). This combination provides plenty of hydration for long summer trail runs. The vest also features a large stretch-fabric compartment on the back that’s perfect for a jacket, hat or gloves. Multiple pockets and trekking pole holders round out the features of this category-leading hydration vest.

Best for trail runners seeking an alternative to energy bars and syrupy gels.

Honey Stinger Plus Performance Chews Stingerita Lime

Honey Stinger Plus Performance Chews Stingerita Lime

Easy-to-use energy chews for before or during your run.

Honey Stinger’s Plus Performance Chews are perfect for keeping your energy levels topped up during longer trail runs. The chews are naturally flavored and easier to consume than traditional energy bars, and less sweet than syrupy energy gels. The chews are packed with electrolytes and 75 mg of caffeine, making them ideal for use before or during your run. From a taste perspective, these chews showcase a refreshing citrus lime flavor that will please most runners’ palates. It’s worth keeping a packet in your pocket as cheap insurance against bonking.

Best for trail runners seeking a low-profile running hat with a splash of colour.

Ciele Athletics ALZCap EQ

Ciele Athletics ALZCap EQ

A form-fitting running hat with plenty of UPF protection.

The brightly colored Ciele Athletics ALZCap EQ cap is a must-have for any trail runner. The cap features mesh panels for increased breathability in warmer conditions. The cap also has a lower profile compared to some running hats, allowing for a more fitted aesthetic. Continuing with the less-is-more theme, the ALZCap EQ cap is constructed with a slightly shorter soft bill which still provides plenty of sun protection but also allows for easier packing in a pocket or hydration vest. And speaking of sun protection, this hat clocks in at a very respectable UPF40+.

Here are some common FAQs (and answers) about trail-running shoes:

What are the primary benefits of trail running?

For most runners, it’s the combination of being in beautiful outdoor settings as well as the reduced impact that comes from running on non-paved surfaces.

Do I really need specialized trail-running shoes?

Need is a strong word, but if you’re spending any time running on anything other than perfectly buffed dirt trails, you’ll appreciate owning proper trail shoes. Trail-running shoes provide better traction and offer more protection from rocks and roots.

Are there any safety tips I should keep in mind when trail running?

I suggest you tell people where and when you plan on going for a trail run and when you intend to return. You may not have cell service in some trail running areas, and if you get injured and can’t get home, people need to know to look for you.

How long will it take for my body to adapt to trail running?

While trail running tends to have a lower impact on your legs, the constantly changing terrain will tax smaller stabilizing muscles you may not regularly use when running on flat paved surfaces. As with any running program, start slowly, listen to your body, and increase your mileage gradually.

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