Best New Trail Shoes for Spring-Summer 2018

For the past decade, I’ve provided semi-annual updates from the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah. With fewer trail brands attending the show this summer, I’ve updated the breadth of this soon-to-come shoe update to include some brands that weren’t in attendance at the show. This roundup is not intended to be exhaustive and, indeed, will be skewed toward brands that I am able to meet with in person. With that said, check out some of the new trail shoes you’ll see in late 2017 or early 2018!

If you’re interested in a particular brand or model, you can jump ahead to the following models. (Full-paragraph previews are bolded in the list.)

New Balance Summit Unknown ($110 – April 1, 2018)

For ages, I’ve teased New Balance about wanting a trail version of my beloved RC1400s. Well, the New Balance Summit Unknown is just such a shoe… in fact, its developmental name was the TR1400. It’s a 10mm-drop shoe with RevLite midsole and a racing last, just like the 1400. Add to that 4mm lugs that continue to tweak the Vazee’s Summit’s pattern and a TPU rockplate, and, voila, you’ve got a speedy trail shoe. Add in a soft, sock-like tongue for a comfortable fit and an outer mesh that doesn’t absorb water in a 8.6-ounce shoe, and you’ve got a winner.

A prototype of the New Balance Summit Unknown.

Also from New Balance:

  • New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v3 ($135 – January 1, 2018) — The Hierro gets a major update with a move from 4mm to 8mm drop, even softer Fresh Foam, bootie construction, a switch to HypoSkin upper construction that tries to blend lockdown with accommodation for foot expansion, a more rounded shaped in the upper, and an updated outsole pattern with deeper and more aggressive lugs (still with Vibram MegaGrip), all for an additional 0.8 ounces.

The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v3.

The North Face Flight RKT ($150 – February 2018)

While versions of a Rob Krar shoe have been in development for years, one will finally hit store shelves early next year in The North Face Flight RKT. This 8-ounce (227g) shoe with 8mm drop was made for light and fast running. To make that happen, the shoe has a thin upper throughout, no rockplate, and minimal outsole material with 2mm multi-directonal lugs. There’s a dual-density midsole with TNF new FastFoam midsole system made up of a super-soft inner core with a standard-density outer region for stability that results in a cushioned ride despite the low weight. This is not your everyday shoe, as its designed for approximately 100 miles of wear. You might get a few more miles out of a pair, but not much. The shoe also has a more accommodating forefoot than you might expect in most racing shoes.

The North Face Flight RKT.

Also from The North Face:

  • The North Face Ultra TR III ($110 – February 2018) — The TR3 gets an injection of FastFoam, the addition of Vibram MegaGrip, and a mesh upper. It’ll weigh in around 9.8 oz (278 g).
  • The North Face Ultra Endurance II ($120 – February 2018) — The Ultra Endurance 2 gets an updated upper with a more breathable tongue and updated geocage for improved midfoot lockdown. It’ll weigh in around 11.5 oz (327 g).

The North Face Ultra TR 3.

The North Face Ultra Endurance 2.

La Sportiva Unika ($190 – February 2018)

A long-distance trail shoe made entirely in Europe, the La Sportiva Unika comes at a hefty $190 price point. Built for the long haul, the shoe features compression-resistant polyurathane midsole along with a rockplate. The midsole also wraps up the shoe’s medial side for added stability while the lacing system enhances midfoot stability. The Unika weighs 11.6 ounces and has an 8mm drop.

The La Sportiva Unika.

Also from La Sportiva:

  • La Sportiva VK ($135 – February 2018) — Sportiva worked with Vertical Kilometer record holder Urban Zemmer in developing this 6.9-ounce (198 g) shoe with 4mm drop. It’s light, but still has a forefoot rubber outsole along with a partial rockplate.
  • La Sportiva Lycan ($115 – February 2018) — A mid-distance, everyday trainer that weighs 9.5 ounces (268g) and has a 6mm drop. It’s got a wider forefoot fit than most Sportiva shoes and a sticky outsole in a pattern reminiscent of the C-Lite 2.0.

The La Sportiva VK.

The La Sportiva Lycan.

SCARPA Spin RS ($135 – February 2018)

The SCARPA Spin RS will be a moderate-weight, everyday trail runner with more cushion than the Spin. It’ll weigh in at 10.5 ounces for a men’s 9 and feature an 8mm drop with a Vibram MegaGrip outsole featuring 4mm lugs. SCARPA and the Spin RS will be the first trail shoes to include Vibram’s Lightbase technology, which reduces outsole weight by co-molding a fabric base with the outsole rubber, allowing for a thinner rubber base. The Spin RS will have a sock-like tongue.


Also from SCARPA:

  • SCARPA Neutron 2 ($130 – February 2018) — The Neutron is updated with a new last, a more roomy toe box, and a new outsole pattern for increased durability and traction in 12.1 ounces. It’ll also be available in a $170 GORE-TEX version.

The SCARPA Neutron 2.

Inov-8 X-Talon 230 ($130 – November 1, 2017)

Next spring, Inov-8’s hallmark X-Talon line will become more versatile with the introduction of the 8.7-ounce, 8mm-drop Inov-8 X-Talon 230. In general, the shoe’s upper and underfoot tooling will remain familiar. However, the outsole gets an upgrade to Inov-8’s brand new Sticky Grip compound, which the company is touting as providing 50% more and 20% more traction in the forefoot and rearfoot, respectively. The midsole also gets an upgrade to Inov-8’s Powerflow+ compound for better shock absorption and energy return. They’ve also added a rockplate for added protection, took out water-absorbing materials, tried to make the shoe more breathable, and added a gusseted tongue.

The Inov-8 X-Talon 230.

Also from Inov-8:

  • Inov-8 Roclite 315 GTX ($145 – November 1, 2017) — A bomber option with GORE-TEX’s Invisible Fit membrane and partially Kevlar upper in a 11.0-ounce (311 g) shoe with 8mm drop.

The Inov-8 Roclite 315 GTX.

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 2 – renamed S/Lab Ultra ($180 – March 1, 2018)

Aside from a major cosmetic overhaul, the most noticeable change in the Salomon S/Lab Ultra are the two decoupled SensiFIT wings, both, medially and laterally, for improved midfoot lockdown. The lace garage is now top- rather than bottom-loading and there’s now an enhanced mud guard. Underfoot, a forefoot insert adds to the cushioning and durability. It’ll weigh in at an even 300 grams (10.6 ounces). (iRunFar’s Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra review)

The Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 2.

Also from Salomon:

  • Salomon S-Lab Speed 2 ($180 – March 1, 2018) — Revised to a completely hydrophobic upper.
  • Salomon S-Lab XA Alpine 2 ($250 – March 1, 2018) — Redesigned gaiter to be completely waterproof and include an asymmetrical zipper.
  • Salomon XA Elevate ($130 – March 1, 2018) — A 9-ounce (255 g) trail shoe with moderate lugs of Premium Wet Traction Contagrip, airy mesh upper, and stable rear in a Sense Ride-like ride.
  • Salomon Speedcross 4 Wide ($130 – March 1, 2018) — The iconic shoe line adds a wider version.

The Salomon S-Lab Speed 2.

The Salomon S-Lab XA Alpine 2.

The Salomon XA Elevate.

SCOTT Kinabalu ($155 – January 2018)

Replacing the current T2 Kinabalu 3.0, the SCOTT Kinabalu is back with an update to the midsole/outsole based on that of the Kinabalu RC introduced early this year and a 2mm lower stack height than the prevoius version. There’s no heel counter or rockplate here. It’ll weigh in at 11.2 ounces (320 g).

The SCOTT Kinabalu for 2018.

Also from SCOTT:

  • SCOTT Kinabalu Power ($160 – January 2018) — The Kinabalu Power looks to be the beast in the Kinabalu series, with an external heel counter, an external stability cage in the rear foot, ripstop panels in the midfoot, and TPU plate in the mid- and forefoot in an approximately 12.2-ounce (350 g), 8mm-drop shoe.

The SCOTT Kinabalu Power.

Altra King MT 1.5 ($140 – January 2018)

As an Altra “point five” update, the Altra King MT 1.5 sees mostly iterative changes to the upper, including a more durable mesh upper and the addition of drainage holes in the toe box. The velcro band has also been shortened due to user feedback and there’s a new “shark skin” fabric in the heel liner for better lockdown. A men’s 9 will now weigh in at 8.5 ounces (241 g).

The Altra King MT 1.5.

Also from Altra:

  • Altra Superior 3.5 ($110 – December 2017) — Altra continues to make the Superior’s upper more durable, while adding the company’s 4-Point GaiterTrap this time around. This version will weigh 9.2 ounces.
  • Altra Duo ($130 – January 2018) — While a road shoe, the Duo is a max-cushion shoe that comes in at 7.9 ounces with a very open toe box.

The Altra Superior 3.5.

The Altra Duo.

Arc’teryx Norvan LD ($160 – February 2018)

For its second trail running offering, the Arc’teryx Norval LD, Arc’teryx has designed a more all-around long-distance trail shoe. The 10.9-ounce (310 g), 9mm-drop shoe features a moderately-lugged Vibram MegaGrip outsole, 3-piece EVA midsole (including some medial support, and a TPU rockplate.

The Arc’teryx Norval LD.

Hoka One One Challenger 4 ($130 – January 1, 2018)

The Hoka One One Challenger 4 is updated with an expended toe cap for better protection while the rest of the upper has seen overlays removed and a more durable mesh implemented which combined yield better durability and breathability. A men’s 9 will weigh 9 ounces (254 g). (iRunFar’s Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 review)

The Hoke One One Challenger ATR 4.

Also from Hoka One One:

  • Hoka One One Mach ($140 – January 1, 2018) — The evolution of the popular Clayton 2 road shoe with a completely redesigned engineered-knit upper and built on a new last that’ll relieve arch pressure. It’ll weigh 8.2 ounces (231 g). [Updated with additional info Aug 24.]

The Hoka One One Mach.

Brooks Caldera 2 ($140 – December 2017)

The 9.9 ounce Brooks Caldera 2 sees mostly updates to the upper at the end of the year with the a more durable fabric and additional rubber overlays. (iRunFar’s original Brooks Caldera review)

The Brooks Caldera 2.

Also from Brooks:

  • Brooks Mazama 2 ($140 – December 2017) — This 9.3-ounce shoe sees a dual-layer mesh replaced by a single mesh layer with 3D-rubber printing overlays.

The Brooks Mazama 2.

Saucony Peregrine 8 ($120 – January 1, 2018)

The biggest updates to the Saucony Peregrine 8 is the removal of its rockplate and a switch from Saucony’s SSL EVA to PWRFoam midsole. It’ll come in at 10.0 ounces (283 g), about a half ounce more than its predecessor. (iRunFar’s Saucony Peregrine 7 review)

The Saucony Peregrine 8.

Dynafit Ultra Pro ($140 – Spring 2018)

Stability and protection are the main foci of the Dynafit Ultra Pro yet it weighs in at a reasonable 11.2 ounces (320 g). The shoe features Vibram MegaGrip, a quick lace, and an 8mm drop.

The Dynafit Ultra Pro.

Salewa Ultra Train 2.0 ($139 – Spring 2018)

The Salewa Ultra Train 2.0 is updated with a grippier Michelin OCX outsole and enhanced midfoot wrapping for better stability. It’ll weight 11.0 ounces (313 g) and have an 8mm drop.

The Salewa Ultra Train 2.0.

Merrell MQM Flex ($110 – February 2018)

The approximately 9.5-ounce Merrell MQM Flex is premised on “moving quickly through the mountains,” whether that’s trail running or scrambling. Truthfully, in today’s market, the MQM Flex feels like a light hiker than someone could run in, as it is built based on Merrell’s Flex trail-running line, but with a more built-up rear upper, and tougher mesh in some areas. There’s also a $140 version with GORE-TEX Invisible Fit waterproofing throughout.

The Merrell MQM Flex.

Also from Merrell:

  • Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit and E-Mesh ($140 and $120, respectively – February 2018) — The Merrell Trail Glove has two reimagined uppers with the knit version pictured.

The Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit.

Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R. ($150 – February 2018)

Named for its “cross-surface running” focus, the Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R. features modest lugs in an all-arounder package. The shoe’s most noticeable feature is its PearlFoam midsole that mixes expanded TPU pellets into an EVA matrix for enhanced resilience. It weighs in at 12.8 ounces and has an 8mm drop.

The Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R.

Also from Columbia Montrail:

  • Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV ($160 – February 2018) — Longtime fans need not worry, the fit and underfoot tooling remain unchanged. The only changes are some material updates to make the upper more breathable and the addition of a speed lace. The updated shoe will weigh 10.2 ounces. (iRunFar’s Montrail Mountain Masochist III review)
  • Columbia Montrail Fluid Flex X.S.R. ($110 – February 2018) — The XSR version of the FluidFlex adds heel stability in an 8.5-ounce package, the lightest shoe in Columbia Montrail’s line.
  • Columbia Montrail Caldorado III ($120 – February 2018) — In its third version, the Caldorado’s upper gets a new mesh and a more generous fit in a 10.3-ounce package. (iRunFar’s Columbia Montrail Caldorado II review)

The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV.

The Columbia Montrail Fluid Flex X.S.R.

The Columbia Montrail Caldorado III.

Vasque Trailbender 2 ($130 – February 2018)

After launching three entirely new models late in 2016, it’s no surprise that Vasque isn’t overhauling its current trail line. Instead, the Vasque Trailbender 2 receives only a few tweaks to its upper, specifically, it drains better and the terry-loop interior has been updated to more of a ribbed lining. It’ll weigh 11 ounces (310 g). (iRunFar’s Vasque Trailbender review)

The Vasque Trailbender 2.

Also from Vasque:

The Vasque Constant Velocity 2.

Topo Runventure 2 ($110 – November 2017)

After a hiatus from Topo’s lineup, the Runventure is back with the Topo Runventure 2. This 9.2-ounce (260 g) version lowers the Runventure from its previous 2mm drop to zero drop. The Runventure is less cushioned and lower to the ground than the in-line Terraventure, but moves to the same outsole as the Terraventure and adds a rockplate. The Runventure also has a completely redesigned upper with a totally collapsible heel. The shoe now features attachment points for the $10 Topo Athletic Gaiter.

The Topo Runventure 2.

Under Armour Horizon 50 ($150 – April 2018)

The primary distinguishing feature of the Under Armour Horizon 50 is its integrated sock-gaiter. The 11.1-ounce shoe also features dual-density rim-and-core midsole construction. It has the same last and 7mm drop as the rest of the recently introduced UA trail lineup.

The Under Armour Horizon 50.

adidas Outdoor Terrex Two BOA ($120 – April 2018)

The adidas Outdoor Terrex TWO Boa is the first new trail shoe I’ve seen with BOA lacing for next season. It’s a 10.8 ounce (305 g) everyday trail runner with a 6mm drop. Aside from the BOA lacing, the most noticeable aspect is that the first colorway will be largely die-free with more colorful versions coming a month after the initial launch.

The adidas Outdoor Terrex Two BOA.

Brands without Significant Spring/Summer 2018 Updates

Nike has confirmed they don’t have have significant updates for spring 2018.

Call for Comments

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand that produces shoes, please share that relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

  • Which new trails shoes for late 2017 and early 2018 have you most excited?
  • Have any technical questions? Ask away!
  • Know of other trail shoes due out early next year? Tell us about them in a comment.
Bryon Powell: is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.

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