Running Buyer's Guide

Best Gaiters For Trail Running in 2020

best gaiters for trail running

Trail running can often mean stones and debris on your shoes. At least it’s annoying having to stop halfway through the race to empty your shoes! Trail running gaiters eliminate this inconvenience by keeping the trail and all your little friends out of your shoes so you can run unhindered.

Scroll down to see the best trail running gaiters available right now and some tips on choosing the right pair for your career.

11 Best Gaiters For Trail Running In 2020

1. Altra Lone Peak 4.5

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

There is much to love about Altra’s Lone Peak 4.5 trail runners. They are strong, light, and have an extremely spacious toe box. Previous Lone models were also very good but 4.5s are the best right now. The most notable improvements include better traction for variable terrain and even more comfortable soles. Between the “foot-shaped” foot box and the Lone Peaks’ zero-drop design, it would be difficult to find a trail runner with a more comfortable fit. The Lone Peaks have long been a staple for hikers, and are a great choice for anyone looking for lightweight comfort on their runs and hikes without skimping on performance.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 12.5): 1 lb. 9.7 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 0 mm

AVAILABLE IN: Mid Mesh, Mid RSM (WP), and Lone Peak 4 Low RSM (WP)

SIZE: True to size, wide toe box

Pros
  • Roomy toe box
  • Excellent traction
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to wear leggings
  • Breathable
  • Rock plate (greater protection and durability on the sole)
Cons
  • Mesh can wear out quickly
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

2. Salomon XA Pro 3D V8

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

With excellent traction and stable, supportive construction, the Salomon XA Pro 3D V8 is great for running and walking on rough or technical terrain. At a pound and a half, these are the heaviest trail runners on our list, but they’re also some of the most durable, as they don’t have many vulnerable mesh areas. The XA pros have a high heel-to-toe drop and are a bit narrow. So you might not like them if you are used to a minimalist zero-drop shoe. The XA PROS are extremely comfortable for average-width feet hikers, runners, and lightweight backpackers. If you prefer a more traditional fit and feel of support, the tried and true XA Pros could be your perfect match.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 12.5): 1 lb. 15.6 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 12 mm

ALSO AVAILABLE IN: GTX

SIZE: Runs large, we recommend reducing the size by ½ size, narrow toe

Pros
  • Support
  • Stable
  • Excellent traction
  • Durable
  • Rock plate (increased protection and durability on the sole)
Cons
  • Quicklace limits adjustability
  • Heel-to-toe drop
  • Tight
  • The heavy fit isn’t for everyone
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

3. Altra Superior 4

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

The ultralight Altra Superior 4s are some of the most comfortable shoes we’ve ever worn thanks to the sock-like knit upper and wide toe box. Removable rock plates included (add approximately 2 oz.) Offer protection option extra and durability underfoot, or they can be used to make the soles feel a little firmer. Superiors are more comfortable on dirt trails but tend to slip and slide a bit on wet rocks and concrete. For this reason, we would not recommend them as everyday footwear, especially if you live in a place that has a long rainy season. Overall, Superiors are ideal for those who want a super comfortable, lightweight shoe with a minimalist look and feel.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 12.5): 1 lb. 3.6 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 0 mm

SIZE: True to size, wide toe box

Pros
  • Ultralight
  • Affordable
  • Comes with removable rock plate (increased protection and durability on the sole)
  • The roomy toe box, secure fit
  • Easy to put on leggings
Cons
  • Traction is not excellent in wet conditions
  • It is not very supportive
  • It is not as durable as others
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

4. Salomon Sense Ride 2

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

We tested the Salomon Sense Ride 2 on all types of terrain (wet and dry rocks, mud, dirt, roots) and they performed wonderfully every time. Sense Rides are very comfortable and provide ample support without feeling too built. A highly flexible forefoot is the best feature of these shoes that makes them incredibly responsive. Our only complaint is that, despite the rocky path, we could still feel bigger rocks through the soft sole. If you prefer a more protective shoe, this can present a problem on trails with many pointed rocks. Overall, the traction on the Sense Rides provides plenty of underfoot confidence on any type of terrain, and they’re a solid choice if you like responsive driving.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 12.5): 1 lb. 6.4 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 8 mm

ALSO AVAILABLE IN: GTX

SIZE: True to size, fits tight

Pros
  • Excellent traction
  • Support
  • Flexible
Cons
  • A tight fit is not for everyone
  • Sometimes you can feel bigger rocks through the sole
  • Quicklace limits the fit
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

5. Sportiva Bushido II

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

The Sportiva Bushido II is a chunky, technical shoe with impressive traction and supportive design. Bushido’s greatest asset is its durability: the mesh areas are reinforced with a ripstop overlay and feature a robust rubber toe cap to protect against rocks. Bushido soles feel a little stiff, which can be beneficial for those looking for solid underfoot protection. But if you like a more responsive shoe then Saucony Peregrines and Altra’s Lone 4.5 are recommended.  That said, if you do a lot of hiking on rough trails and need a super durable shoe with excellent traction for variable terrain, the Bushido II is worth considering.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 13): 1 lb. 9.9 oz

FOOT HEEL DROP: 6 mm

SIZE: True to size

Pros
  • Support
  • Excellent traction
  • Durable
  • Protector
  • Rock plate (increased protection and durability on the sole)
Cons
  • Rigid soles
  • Feels a little overloaded
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

6. HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

HOKAs has long been known for their excellent comfort and support on the road and we believe the Speedgoat 4 is the best in the lineup. The Speedgoat 4 provides the same comfortable comfort that we expect from any HOKA shoe, and they are 5mm. lugs that provide exceptional traction on uneven terrain. These shoes also feature a nice wide toe box, which allows swelling when you are logging many miles and can help prevent injury for long days on the road. While the thick midsole is comfortable and does a great job of providing underfoot protection, we’ve noted that the height of the high stack in the midsole can feel a little shaky at times.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 12): 1 lb. 10.5 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 4 mm

ALSO AVAILABLE IN: GTX

SIZE: True to size, wide toe

Pros
  • Comfortable
  • Highly padded soles
  • Excellent traction
  • Foot box
  • Spacious
Cons
  • Wide and expensive fit is not for everyone
  • Not as stable as others
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

7. Brooks Cascadia 14  

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

Brooks Cascadias have been an option for hikers and backpackers for many years due to its comfortable feel and solid overall performance. Overall, we found Cascadias to be quite good in most categories, but the problem is that they aren’t outstanding in any area. The traction, level of support, and comfort are excellent, but in our opinion, there are better trail runners. The big thing that sets this version of Cascadias apart is its attractive casual look that transitions well from town to trail, so these are great shoes for those who like to go for a run in the morning before meeting friends for the brunch.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 13): 1 lb. 10 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 8 mm

ALSO AVAILABLE IN: GTX

SIZE: True to size, fits tight

Pros
  • Excellent traction
  • Accessories for running gaiters
  • Casual look
  • Comfortable and secure fit
  • Rock plate (increased protection and durability on the sole
Cons
  • A tight fit isn’t for everyone
  • Doesn’t stand out in any category
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

8. Salomon SpeedCross

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

If you are this type If you sign up for every mud racing event within a 100-mile radius, the Salomon Speedcross 5 may be your new best friend. They have deep, sticky lugs that provide the best mud traction of all the riders we tested. The soles and neck around the ankle are very soft and comfortable, so if you prefer an energetic stretch feel when running or walking, the Speedcross offers. We found the heel-to-toe drop to be a bit steep for our liking, but we are in favor of minimalist zero-drop styles. That said, Speedcross is a great option for those who thrive on challenging trails with muddy and rugged terrain.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 12.5): 1 lb. 9.4 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 10 mm

ALSO AVAILABLE IN: GTX

SIZE: Runs large, we recommend reducing size ½

Pros
  • Highly cushioned soles
  • Excellent traction on muddy terrain
  • Strong and durable
Cons
  • Lack of pavement traction
  • Heel to toe drop
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

9. New Balance 10v1 Minimus

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

If you’re looking for that barefoot feel close to the ground, the New Balance 10v1 Minimus has you covered. These joggers are super light and ultra-breathable and we love how the soft upper fits your foot. Along the way, these puppies clung to all kinds of terrain and we found the soles to be surprisingly tough. Because they are made almost entirely of mesh (with some reinforced areas), the Minimus will not be as durable as some of the other shoes on our list. For that reason, we would not recommend them for hiking or more technical running routes. It’s also good to keep in mind that minimal shoes can cause foot pain after a long run if you’re not used to them. With that said, if you’ve been eager to try the barefoot approach or you’re a minimal shoe buff, the Minimus is a solid choice.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 13): 1 lb. 2.6 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 4 mm

SIZE: True to size; fits tight on the instep

Pros
  • Ultralight
  • Breathable
  • Excellent traction
  • Comfortable
Cons
  • Not as durable as others
  • Aggressive arch support isn’t for everyone
  • The slim fit isn’t for everyone
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

10. La Sportiva Wildcat

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

With their rugged construction and superior stability, La Sportiva Wildcats are designed to handle hiking and running on difficult trails. The lacing system provides a snug fit and thermoplastic heel stabilizers make Wildcats a great choice for trails with lots of rough terrains. These shoes are made of thick, durable nylon mesh that is highly breathable for long days on the go. But, despite all the mesh, the Wildcats are among the heaviest riders on our list. They wouldn’t be our first choice for smooth runs, but for technical trails with lots of rocks and brush, Wildcats are hard to beat.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 13): 1 lb. 15 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP : 10 mm

ALSO AVAILABLE IN: GTX

SIZE: True to size

Pros
  • Breathable
  • Comfortable and high-quality materials
  • Secure fit
  • Durable
  • Stable
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Traction is not great in wet conditions
  • Feels a little awkward for most running trails
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

11. Glove Merrell Trail 5  

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

The ultra-minimalist Merrell Trail Glove 5 Gloves are designed, as the name implies, to fit like a glove. It’s rare to find a shoe that is minimalist and supportive, which makes Trail Gloves unique. This level of support will not appeal to everyone and the tight fit could also be a problem for some. For us, the wider fit and lower level of support offered by the minimal Altra Superior 4 is more attractive. That said, Trail Gloves are unique in design and may be perfect for you if the minimal shoe is your jam.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

WEIGHT MEASURED PER PAIR (SIZE 12): 1 lb. 0.5 oz.

FOOT HEEL DROP: 0 mm

SIZE: True to size, has a very tight fit

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Ultralight
  • Supportive
Cons
  • Aggressive arch support isn’t for everyone
  • A tight fit isn’t for everyone
Best Gaiters For Trail Running

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

Choosing gaiters requires answering some questions about what you will wear them for. Are you a trail runner looking to protect your legs from low branches or loose stony ground? Is it a multi-day adventure on varied terrain in the works? Do you dream of snowshoeing on a dusty hillside? Are you hunting in the field, far from burning trails? Each of these situations requires a different type of gaiter. Consider these details before deciding on the type of gaiters to buy:

Attachment Method

This is the main thing that distinguishes trail running poles.

The most common way to fasten hiking gaiters to your boot is with a velcro strap across it, a small metal hook that wraps around the front of your laces, and a bootstrap or instep strap that runs underneath of your shoe.

The vamp strap has a love-hate relationship with running gaiters because not all shoes have enough lift between the toe and heel to make room for a strap.

If you have flat soles, you may end up feeling most of the strap underfoot, or just wear it too quickly.

Consequently, different brands are experimenting with different methods of securing the gaiters to their shoe, with some even recommending that you stick a velcro patch on the heel.

You want to be pretty committed to doing this!

Size

Outerwear: Snowshoes and winter climbers wear more layers and thicker clothing that can prevent gaiters from closing tightly.

Footwear: Mountaineering boots, hiking boots, hybrid approach shoes, and trail running shoes are manufactured differently, and their shape affects the way gaiters fit. Cross country ski boots and snowshoe boots also offer size challenges.

Shoe Size: Most gaiters are cut to fit a variety of shoe sizes, so please check the size charts before purchasing.

Material

Fabric Type: Coated nylon is a commonly used fabric in leggings, but hikers need more technical fabrics when tackling a multi-day hike, ice climbing, or snowshoeing.

Water resistance: Some gaiters are waterproof, while others are waterproof. The waterproof gaiters are breathable, allowing sweat to evaporate from your pants and boots; Waterproof gaiters are not.

Abrasion resistance: Gaiters are made of sturdy materials that are difficult to scrape or tear. Some even have a more abrasion-resistant fabric around the bottom cuff for added protection.

Terms

Terrain: Consider the terrain on which you will be wearing your leggings. A muddy road presents a different challenge than deep snowdrifts.

Weather: Weather is important when it comes to choosing the right set of leggings. You probably don’t need waterproof knee-high gaiters when hiking in the desert in the summer.

Injury Potential: If your trip has known hazards like hard knocks against rocky outcrops, large spines, or encounters with venomous snakes, “snake-proof” gaiters can provide additional protection.

Durability

Unfortunately, bomb-proof durability seems to be lacking in many of the trail running gaiters on the market right now.

Again, the focus is on lightweight, thin, and flexible material so you don’t feel like you’re wearing something extra.

This is fine if you’re not going to be rubbing against obstacles or messing around. Theoretically, any thin material will stop debris from entering your shoe if it is tight enough.

But if you’re looking for something that will take you through some tricky obstacle courses or that you can use for walking as well, you’d better look at more specific walking gaiters than running.

A pair of outdoor research gaiters (link to Amazon.com) like these might be more what you’re looking for.

Best Gaiters For Trail Running

CONCLUSION

We have a list of the best trail running gaiters with options for all budgets that you should take a look at if you think that some pre-dawn trail running might be on the agenda.

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