TOP 8 Best Trail Running Gaiters 2021 – Keep the Trail Out of Your Shoes!

Jeff Baldelli
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Haven’t you always wondered why trail runners don’t have mud on their shoes when they return from a run? You are now about to find out the answer.

Trail running gaiters are a brilliant piece of gear that will keep the trail out of your shoes, keep your pants out of the mud, and keep you happier on your run by keeping the debris out of your eyes.

Trail running gaiters have many names. Here are the three most common names you will hear when it comes to buying your new trail running gaiters:

  • Trail running gaiter
  • Trail sock
  • Trail running boot sock

Whatever you choose to call them, trail running gaiters are without a doubt the best trail running gear on the market. They can be used for hiking, trail running, and other types of activity, giving them a lot of versatility.

NameCategoryProduct
Ultimate Direction FK GaiterBest OverallUltimate Direction FK Gaiter
Outdoor Research Surge Running GaitersBudget PickOutdoor Research Surge Running Gaiters
Salomon Trail GaitersUpgrade PickSalomon Trail Gaiters

1. Ultimate Direction FK Gaiter

Our rating: 9 / 10

Ultimate Direction FK Gaiter

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Pros:

  • Extremely durable
  • Waterproof
  • Comfortable
  • Recommended for all activities
  • Provides leg protection

Cons:

  • Non-adjustable
  • Not intended for trail running

When running on the trail, it is important to protect yourself from all of the sticks, rocks, and other debris that can find its way into your shoe. There are many different types of gaiters for trail running but one of the best is the Ultimate Direction FK Gaiter.

These waterproof gaiters are made of an advanced, non-woven urethane laminate meaning they are almost indestructible. They can successfully keep many objects out of your shoes and they have a built-in neoprene cuff that prevents the rubber from cutting into your leg.

The gaiters are remarkably light for how tough they are and they are available in four different sizes. They are easy to take on and off and there is a convenient pocket in the backside to hold your keys, ID, or some cash. They are worn from the top down, go over the shoe, and secure tightly with a Velcro opening.

2. Moxie Gear Ankle Gaiters Black

Our rating: 8 / 10

Moxie Gear Ankle Gaiters Black

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Pros:

  • No frills
  • Very little weight
  • Keeps out snow and small rocks

While these Moxie Gear ankle gaiter are not much to look at, they do their job unbelievably well. They do not have much in the way of features, just a 15" long x 3" wide stretchy Lycra leg band, with a tapered toe loop that fits a slightly larger shoe.

What they do have going for them is the fact that they keep the trail out of your shoes. If you are doing long trail runs where you are finding rocks, sticks, and gravel in your shoes, this simple little piece of stretchy Lycra could be your new best friend. It is even small enough to tuck into your pocket on a hot race day or rub a little Vaseline on your legs before running for a nice soft barrier between your skin and the inside of your shoes.

Leg gaiter Gaiters for trail running may seem like an unnecessary or even counter-productive piece of equipment, but if you are the type of person who fusses about gravel in your shoes, you will love the small weight and big benefit of this simple little piece of running gear.

3. Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters

Our rating: 8 / 10

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters

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Pros:

  • Abrasion and odor resistant
  • Fit snugly but not overly tight
  • Repel water well in the wet season

Cons:

  • Can be a bit tricky to get on and off…especially when they are wet
  • Lacks ventilation

These are the 2016 Brooks Cascadia 8 Gaiters. The gaiter clips on to the boot underneath the laces and buckle enclosure. The neoprene portion will wrap around your footwear while the mesh breathes, and there is a strap on the side to help keep it on in the wet.

The gaiter can be used on the trail as well, which is why it is one of the best trail running gaiters today. It has a plastic buckle system to secure the closure vertically onto your boots, and it will fold flat to fit into a backpack zippered pocket if you are walking to or from the trailhead.

The Boulder, Cascadia, and Trail Gaiters are all loved by a large number of users because they fit well, are comfortable to wear, and do a good job of keeping out debris, water, and snow.

4. Salomon Trail Gaiters

Our rating: 8 / 10

Salomon Trail Gaiters

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Pros:

  • Ventilated design to prevent overheating.
  • High-quality netting seems like it will stay strong for years.
  • Compact design that can fit it in a pocket or pack.
  • Seamless design so it can be used running uphill or downhill.

Cons:

  • No way to adjust tightness
  • Fits small legs better

Are You Tired of kicking Rocks, Dirt, Minions, High-Heeled Shoes, Snow,sand, Leeches, Padlocks and Most Importantly Your own Dog…Because of Your Shoe? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Don't Forget to Pick One…or Two or… O! Get yourself a pair (or a few).. you won't be disappointed!

The Salomon Trail Gaiter is a lightweight and breathable gaiter that’s designed to help your feet from stepping on rocks while you’re running. The Salomon Trail Gaiters are made of nylon, so they’re lightweight and breathable, but they’re also durable, so you can be a little rough with them.

5. Salomon Trail Gaiters

Our rating: 8 / 10

Salomon Trail Gaiters

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Pros:

  • Quick deployment
  • Further protection from debris
  • Good durability and waterproofing
  • Multiple strap options
  • Good compression
  • Enough adjustability on the straps so that they can fit almost any shoe size

Cons:

  • Feet can get a little bit hot
  • Sewn in the USA
  • Requires careful sizing
  • The durability rating is average so the gaiters will wear out a lot faster if used in harsh conditions

This hiking and trail running gaiters from Salomon is a really popular one. It features a high/low gaiter that provides protection from debris, rocks, twigs, and cones.

The Salomon Trail Gaiters are lightweight and easy to pack away. It is made with breathable outer fabric with water resistant finish. The fitment is excellent and offers a great deal of adjustability.

The Trail Gaiters is made in the USA so quality is better ensured. They have adequate ventilation features but you might have to consider going slightly up a size if you wear thick socks because there is no extra space to accommodate it.

6. Inov-8 Debris Gaiter 32

Our rating: 7 / 10

Inov-8 Debris Gaiter 32

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Pros:

  • Lightweight breathable material.
  • Breathable mesh panel at the toe for extra ventilation.
  • Tough enough to last.
  • Come with an adjustable elastic cord for a secure, custom fit.

Cons:

  • A bit short to cover the ankle on some people.
  • The Velcro is very loud when it comes together and isn’t exactly practical for stealthy situations.
  • Not a lot of sizes to choose from, so if you have very large feet, you might have a problem.

This pair of running gaiters will keep the dirt, debris and mud at bay so that you can focus on the important stuff, like how awesome you look when you’re running.

There’s nothing worse than having to stop and clean your shoes a dozen times during a run. These gaiters are lightweight and breathable and do a good job of keeping you protected from the elements.

They’re not too hard to adjust, and they will fit young runners through adults with strong calf muscles.

7. Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low

Our rating: 7 / 10

Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low

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Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Stay in place
  • Can be used for hiking as well

Cons:

  • There is a bit of a learning curve when you first put them on
  • They are a bit pricier

They aren’t cheap, but worth every penny. These are trail running gaiters and if you run either barefoot or in running shoes and you want to keep rocks, dirt and debris out of your shoes, these gaiters are for you. These gaiters are made of lightweight mesh and plastic and won’t weigh you down. They do take a little getting used to since you have to put each gaiter on over your foot and it is a bit like a sock, but with those on, they stay on.

It all comes down to their dual elastic and hook and loop Heel Lock. The elastic stretches to provide an a close fit, while the Hook and Loop keeps them snug. They are elevated even further by a reinforced tab at the top, but a Velcro strap underneath the gaiter.

The hook and loop at the top also served as a dirt shield, keeping the rest of your pants clean as you hike.

8. Outdoor Research Surge Running Gaiters

Our rating: 7 / 10

Outdoor Research Surge Running Gaiters

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Pros:

  • Tough fabric and built-in lacing system.
  • Breathe well.
  • Unique strap design to reduce pressure on big toe.
  • Simple, but functional design to make lacing easy and fast.
  • Neoprene ankle cuff seals out snow.
  • Toe hooks create a better fit.

Cons:

  • Elastic band for lacing system wears out.
  • Laces are extremely long.
  • Colors (black/yellow) are a little better than the grey.

If you are looking for the best trail running gaiters to buy and want the perfect fit and durability for your trail run, you might want to choose the Outdoor Research Surge Running Gaiters.

This brand has taken the concept of the gaiters and made it even better. They have elastic bands to make the lacing easier and have hooks on the outer side of the top cuff to keep the lace off of your top of the foot. They also add 4 hooks around the lace system to make for a tight and close fit.

About the colors, if you want the traditional classic colors that show dirt, loosen up, and get torn up, then go with the black/yellow. If you want a little lighter colored colors, then the grey is right for you.

9. ALTRA Men's Trail Gaiter

Our rating: 5 / 10

ALTRA Men's Trail Gaiter

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Pros:

  • Easy to slip on and off
  • Keep the trail out of your shoes
  • Protects your feet from sharp rocks and sticks
  • Beautifully crafted with a stylish design
  • Durable material is spun polypropylene with a soft terry cloth lining
  • Easy to clean material
  • Excellent customer service

Cons:

  • May run small. Order the next size up.
  • The rubber buckle in the back can get caught on your heels.
  • The hook-and-loop straps on the side of the bootie are a bit short.
  • They won’t protect your feet if you step in a puddle or a deep stream.

Red.

These Altra Trail Running Socks are hands down one of the most comfortable trail running socks you can get. They’re stretchy, soft, and have padded toes and heels that will give you a boost of comfort with every step.

If you’re a first-time trail runner, or a seasoned vet, you will appreciate the advantage of staying as off-track as possible. These Altra Trail Running Socks make for a great first layer of warmth, thanks to the built-in bootie that keeps debris out of your shoes and away from your feet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is it OK to wear trail running shoes on pavement?

Although trail shoes are designed for the trails, you can wear them on pavement. Keep in mind varies terrain conditions and you should be fine. If you run on hilly or rocky terrain, you will feel rocks poking into your soles. If not, you will feel rocks under your shoe when you are running on flat surfaces.

In general, even if you wear trail shoes on hilly or rocky terrain, they will be fine for flat surfaces because most of the time you are running on pavement. For those planning on doing road races or 5Ks, it is better to get a pair of sneakers not made specifically for trails.

What are Trail Gaiters for?

Trail gaiters keep your pants legs and shoes clean. The trail gaiters come in handy and make the life of many a hiker much easier.

One big problem that people face when they are hiking is that dirt and twigs seem to find their way into their shoes even when hiking on the most well-worn trails. Trail gaiters can alleviate perhaps the worst part of hiking: getting to camp and realizing that your shoes and pants are covered in mud. With these gaiters, you can just brush them off! They keep debris off your pants and shoes, and they can help give you a little extra protection from the elements. On a sunny day, they help keep you cooler. In the rain, they can help keep some of that water away from your shoes.

How many miles should you put on trail running shoes?

You should get around 400 miles of trail running in leather-soled trail shoes. I find that 280-400 miles of trail running total is a good range for a pair of trail shoes.

I suggest this to my customers and it is my personal usage. Trail running shoes take a beating. And you tend to replace them more often than you replace road running shoes. The cushioning and support systems are geared more towards trail use and don’t lose their effectiveness on asphalt. In fact the opposite is true.

If you run on both trail and road it probably indicates that you need to rotate shoes. My favorite road running shoes are the Brooks Ravenna which you can see here very cheap.

Should trail running shoes be tight?

Your running shoes should fit well and not feel overly tight, but you want them to be snug. You should be able to wiggle your toes in your shoes. If they’re too tight, you’ll lose circulation, and a lack of circulation means a lack of oxygen. You want your feet to feel comfortable, not suffocated.

Conclusion

Do you enjoy spending time outdoors running through the trails? The only problem with that is all the small rocks and twigs you encounter along the way.

If you’ve been a frequent trail runner, you’ve probably experienced having small pebbles, sticks and dirt enter your shoe making the run far from fun. A little less enjoyable after you’ve found yourself removing tiny pebbles and twigs from your socks and shoe mid-run.

Fortunately, trail run gaiters have been invented to protect the foot from debris.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Ultimate Direction FK GaiterBest OverallUltimate Direction FK Gaiter
Outdoor Research Surge Running GaitersBudget PickOutdoor Research Surge Running Gaiters
Salomon Trail GaitersUpgrade PickSalomon Trail Gaiters