Whether you have the best trail running shoe for you is dependent on many factors. This includes the terrain you are running, the length of time you are running, the fit of your shoe based on your foot's width, length, and overall feel. Many people tend to order shoes online and have it at their doorstep, but before you do that, I encourage you to visit your local running store and try on the shoes before you buy. Your friend's “favorite shoe” that she's been wearing for five years is not necessarily the best shoe for you.
The trail shoes below have been selected based on their ability to handle running on technical Austin trails and surrounding Hill Country terrain. We've broken it into two separate categories: 1) the best shoes for long training runs and ultra races, and 2) the best shoes for shorter distances and trail marathon races or less.
Training Shoe and Ultra-Distance Category:
First Place : Nike Terra Kiger 2
It provides a snug upper fit with a firm cushioning that is responsive on our trails. One benefit is the shoe's out-of-the-box-ready-to-run feel and its ease on most of our trails here in the Texas Hill Country. It is also not so aggressive that you cant wear it on the road or Lady Bird Lake Trail. If you do wear in on the road though the tread will wear down fairly quickly. On trails like the Barton Creek Greenbelt and similar rocky trails, you will feel some rocks poking your feet, as there is not a rock plate built in the foot bed. Expect 250-300 miles per pair. Weight: 8.5oz; Offset: 4mm; Price: $125.
Runner Up: Hoka One One Stinson Trail
This shoe provides the most cushion you could ever want without the most weight. Hoka has a wider fit to allow for swelling of the feet for those longer runs and races, but they provide an additional insert if you don’t need the additional space (I use the insert). This is also great for Austin runners who have wider feet. Hoka is substantially thicker off the ground than your traditional shoes, but your foot is cradled and supported well. I initially thought I would roll my ankles easier and more frequently being this high off the ground, but this shoe has such a wide platform that your are very stable while running over rocks and roots. I recommend using this shoe for your Ultra races or for days your feet are beat up and need some added cush. They are a bit pricey, but they do tend to last a little longer for me. I get 800 miles out of mine. Weight: 12 oz; Offset: 6mm; Price: $160.
Racing Shoe Category—Trail Marathon or Less:
First place: New Balance MT101
Looking for a light and fast shoe? This is your winner. The 101 keeps you close to the ground, has great traction for our Texas limestone and granite trails (event when wet), and is as plain as it gets. This is a good thing. This shoe was just recently updated and returned to its original model after a few years of change. The upper is breathable and thin and the rock plate is rigid below your feet. You will feel the rocks below, but hardly will you ever have pain from them. Great price too! These shoes last about 350-450 miles. Weight- 7.5 oz; Offest: 10mm; Price: $89.
Runner Up: Salo** mon S-Labs FellCross 3**
This shoe is the most durable and rugged shoe I have run in. It truly feels like an extension of my foot. The upper fits snug. Under your foot is plenty of cushion and support to get you through a trail marathon. The tread will grip to anything, and when dry, this shoe provides the best traction. This would also be a perfect shoe when doing Hill of Life repeats while training for some of the new Sky Series Mountain races popping up around the country. They should last about 450-500 miles. Weight 9.5 oz; Offest: 4mm; Price: $170