Gravel Running Shoes 101: 5 Versatile Shoes Capable of Running on Every Surface
First there were gravel bikes, and now there are gravel running shoes.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
If you’re a runner who frequently logs long weekend runs, there’s a good chance you run on a variety of surfaces as you rack up your mileage. Linking concrete bike paths, paved streets, soft dirt trails, and gravel roads on a single run can add an element of fun and even a tinge of adventure. Welcome to gravel running!
Like gravel biking, gravel running is about combining sections of road running and trail running almost spontaneously, and it requires a special pair of shoes to tackle all of that terrain effectively. You need shoes that are light and smooth and able to run at up-tempo paces but also have subtle traction to provide grip and stability on mild trails and gravel roads.
RELATED: Is One Running Surface Better for You Than Another?
5 of the Best Shoes for Gravel Running
Here are a few shoes we’ve wear-tested that are ideal for multi-surface gravel running.
Brooks Catamount | $160
The Catamount is like your favorite long-distance road racing shoe with a grippy, trail-specific tread. It’s built around a thick layer of energetic midsole foam and a breathable, stretchy upper, giving it a light and very agile vibe that’s ideal for running fast on mild to moderate terrain. It’s designed for long-haul comfort and performance, an ideal tool for running 10K to ultra-distance races on the trails with just enough subtle protection to keep your feet safe and sound out in the wild. But also runs smooth enough on hard surfaces to conquer paved surfaces, fire roads, and concrete paths.
Weight: 8.3 oz.
Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (32mm heel, 26mm forefoot)
Craft CTM Ultra 2 | $165
The CTM Ultra 2 truly feels like the gravel bike of trail running shoes, equally good on mild to moderate trails as it is on paved roads and concrete paths. Its minimalist one-piece engineered mesh upper and energetic midsole platform provide the fit and ride of a light and fast road running shoe, but the three-piece segmented rubber outsole with low-profile lugs allows it to handle semi-technical trails, gravel roads, and dirt paths with ease. It’s not quite as light and fast as Craft’s super shoe with a similar outsole tread, but it’s as capable and versatile as any do-anything training shoe available this spring.
Weight: 8.8 oz.
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (40mm heel, 30mm forefoot)
Hoka Tecton X | $200, releasing soon
The Tecton X is a unique shoe with two parallel carbon fiber plates embedded in a new super-critical foam midsole that’s designed to provide a smooth and propulsive stride on uneven terrain. Based on how much this shoe divided our testers, it’s worth a try-on before buying, but we find it has exceptional traction from the low-profile Vibram Litebase outsole and can handle a wide range of rugged trail terrain with aplomb. It’s light, cushy, and responsive enough to run smoothly on pavement, and the reliable grip allows it to excel on gravel roads.
Weight: 8.0 oz.
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (33mm heel, 29mm forefoot)
RELATED: First Look: The Tecton X, Hoka’s First Carbon Trail Shoe
Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 | $180
The Parkclaw G 280 is a road-to-trail shoe that straddles the line between maximal and minimal, offering both lively cushioning and an intuitive feel for the ground. It’s built on a responsive foam compound enhanced by Graphene, a nano material derived from graphite that’s said to be one of the thinnest and strongest materials on Earth. That contributes to the resiliency of the midsole foam, while adding durability and grip to the midsole and outsole. Although this shoe has an expansive array of lugs on its outsole, it runs surprisingly smooth on paved roads while providing exceptional traction and a stable ride on dirt, gravel, and even technical trails.
Weight: 8.8 oz.
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (29mm heel, 21mm forefoot)
On Cloudvista | $140
Built on a platform of shock-absorbing midsole technology made from responsive foam, the Cloudvista offers the comfort and smoothness of a road running shoe and a nice blend of cushioning, traction, and protection for off-road running. It’s light, has a plush, low-to-the-ground feel on dirt trails and provides soft landings and snappy toe-offs on firmer terrain. The lively cushioning is accompanied by a flexible plastic rock plate embedded in the midsole that allows for a cushy, flexible, and protective ride that doesn’t inhibit the natural movement of your feet on variable terrain. The Cloudvista is a capable trail runner at heart, but its versatility is its best attribute.
Weight: 8.6 oz.
Heel-Toe Offset: 7mm (32mm heel, 25mm forefoot)