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Recommended Zero Drop, Cushioned Trail Running Shoes

Posted on June 28 2013

Though I enjoy wearing zero drop, barefoot-style shoes casually and while running on roads, I’ve found out the hard way that running trails in minimally cushioned shoes can sometimes be difficult, especially if pointy rocks are strewn about (a bruised foot during my first 50K made me realize the value of a good rock plate…).

Fortunately, more and more options are popping up in the cushioned, zero drop trail running niche – below are my recommended shoes in this category. All of the shoes listed below work well on roads too and thus offer quite a bit of versatility. However, if you are looking for dedicated zero drop road shoes, you can also view my recommended zero drop, cushioned road shoes here.

NOTE: I’ve only included shoes that I personally have worn or that have been reviewed here on If you think there’s a shoe that should be here that’s not currently included, leave a comment and I’ll look at giving it a try!

Zero Drop, Cushioned Trail Shoes

Merrell Ascend Glove

Stack Height: 10.5mm, 10.5mm
Weight: 8.5oz (size 10)

Quick Take: firm cushion, forefoot and heel rock plate, wide forefoot, drains well, decent traction
My Full Review (click to read)

Buy at Running Warehouse
Buy at Zappos
Buy at Optimal Run (ships internationally)

 Altra Superior

Stack Height: 12mm, 12mm
Weight: 10.3oz

Quick Take: removable rock plate, very flexible, super-wide toebox, runs 1/2 size small, very versatile shoe 
My Brief Review

Buy at Running Warehouse
Buy at Zappos
Buy at Optimal Run (ships internationally)

Inov-8 Trailroc 235

Stack Height: 13mm, 13mm
Weight: 8.3oz

Quick Take: roomy fit, no rock plate but protective outsole, firm ride, decent traction, some have had upper durability issues
My Full Review (click to read)

Buy at Running Warehouse
Buy at Zappos
Buy at (outside US)
Buy at Wiggle (outside US)

Skechers GoBionic Orange

Skechers GoBionic Trail

Stack Height: 12mm, 12mm without insole, 18mm 14mm with insole
Weight: 8.8oz

Quick Take: soft cushioning, rock plate, good traction, removable footbed allows switching between 0mm and 4mm drop
Read a Full Review by Caleb Masland (my coach; my review soon)

Buy at Zappos
Buy at (use code AAA20 for 20% off)

Other zero drop, cushioned trail shoes that I have not yet run in include the Altra Lone Peak, Inov-8 F-Lite 232, and the soon to arrive Mizuno Ferus.

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