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Trail running gear we’re most excited about this year

April 21, 2021

Found in Activities, Gear, Skills and tips

To get ready for time in nature and on the trails, we chatted with MEC staffers for the scoop on this season’s favourite running watches, packs,** shoes** and layers. Find out what’s new and exciting, along with top picks that runners trust for trails, year after year:

New Garmin watches

In the COVID era, days can kind of feel like they’re blurring together. Run watches can be a way to keep motivated and see measurable progress in action:

Garmin Enduro

New: Longest battery life

Garmin Enduro watch

Built for long-distance runs, the Garmin Enduro DLC Titanium has the longest battery life of any Garmin watch. “I’m stoked on this watch because it’s great for endurance athletes who are out for hours – think ultra marathon distances,” MEC staffer James told us. “Battery life is so important and that’s where this watch shines.”

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE

Coming soon to

The Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE has all the same features that people love in the top-selling Garmin 945 Forerunner, but now with LTE connection – which means you can leave your phone at home. You can send and receive text messages (no phone needed), plus your loved ones can track you while you’re running to know you’re safe.

Best-selling Garmin watch

Garmin Instinct

The Garmin Instinct GPS Watch is a best-seller at MEC and gives you awesome bang for your buck. “I love the Instinct because it packs in so many features at a fraction of the price of other models,” said MEC staffer James. Use this all-round adventure watch to do it all – running, biking, hiking, swimming, training and more.

New and popular running packs

These days, runners have more carrying options than ever – here are a few highlights:

Salomon Sense Pro 10

New: Made for serious mileage

Salomon Sense Pack

The latest high-end running vest from Salomon is designed for runners serious about distance. “The Sense Pro 10 is super comfortable with lots of breathability and storage built in. Plus it looks great,” says MEC staffer James.

Nathan Trail Mix Plus Belt

Coming soon to

Nathan Trail Mix hydration belt

Running shorter distances? The Nathan Trail Mix Plus Hydration Belt is an excellent option. It carries just what you need without weighing you down, and has loops to stash gloves or a windbreaker. “This is the best belt I have tried, there is no bounce to it,” said one reviewer.

Best-selling running packs

New: women’s specific fit for Active Skin 8

Runners in Salomon running vests

Salomon running packs are top picks for many runner, especially the Salomon Adv Skin 12 Set Pack – it’s our best-selling run pack. It has space to hold what you need for long runs, and is super comfortable (check the reviews for proof).

The Salomon Active Skin 8 is another top-seller and is pared down for shorter runs or a minimalist approach. New for 2021 is the Salomon Active Skin 8 women’s edition, which is designed to eliminate pressure on the chest when it’s cinched down.

New trail running shoes we love

Get the grip you need for technical trails, and the comfort you need for long day hikes.

Altra Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoes

New: Updated midsole for 2021

Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes

Altra Lone Peak 5 shoes don’t mess around when it comes to chomping into gnarly terrain – they call the lugs TrailClaws – and that’s part of the reason for their legendary status. This latest version has updated midsole foam and extended rock plate for even more protection. The ample toe box lets toes spread naturally, and they’re hugely popular with long-distance thru-hikers.

Best-selling trail running shoes you love

The numbers don’t lie – these are the shoes MEC members are turning to year after year:

Salomon Speedcross 5

Salomon Speedcross shoes

Salomon Speedcross are our biggest line of trail shoes. With many loyal followers (see the reviews for proof), they’re a hit for day hiking as well as trail running. “The fit is a favourite straight out of the box,” says MEC staffer James. “And the deep lugs give mega grip.” In 2021, the women’s model comes in a new Brick Dust colour – it’ll pair nicely with dirt.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 shoes

On the hunt for mega cushion? Pick up a pair of best-selling Hoka Speedgoat shoes to float down switchbacks, over roots, and on hours of long runs. This iteration of Speedgoats are designed to give great control (thanks to the midfoot overlays) and grip (thanks to the large multi-directional lugs).

La Sportiva Bushido II

La Sportiva Bushido II running shoes

Lightweight shoes to move quickly in steep terrain. La Sportiva Bushido II shoes get excellent reviews with many runners noting how comfortable they are. Aggressive lugs give solid grip in sloppy conditions, and they’re cushioned without being too heavy. Great for new trail runners getting used to gravel and singletrack, or for experienced runners covering serious distance. New colours in both the men’s and women’s models for 2021 too.

Layers to run in

If you’ve been living in your running tights all year, it might be time for a refresh. Take stock of your layers and see what could use an upgrade.

Pockets and zippers in all the right places

New: Brooks Dare line of sports bras

Runners wearing tights and a sports bra

Tights with pockets? Sign us up. The North Face Motivation Tights are moisture-wicking, high-rise, and have two pockets for your phone and cards. Brand new from Brooks, the Dare Zip Run Bra’s built-in cups are made for high-impact activity – and the front zip means no wrestling with sweaty straps.

Best-selling shorts and shirts

Runners wearing the MEC Core Train shirt and running shorts

Some gear is a hit, year after year. The MEC Core Train T-shirt (men’s or women’s) is a popular choice with MEC staffers and members, thanks to its smooth seams, breathable fabric and antimicrobial treatment to keep it smelling fresh. For warmer days ahead, Brooks Chaser 7in. Shorts are top-sellers with recent updates based on customer feedback: a bit longer, still plenty range of motion.

Always essential

Without race aid stations or run groups, it’s incredibly important to be prepared on the trails. Salomon Ambassador Jeff Pelletier shares his 10 essentials for trail running:

Jeff’s 10 essentials, which all fit into a 12L Salomon running pack

  1. Headlamp, plus a backup or spare battery if you’re heading out at night
  2. Whistle
  3. Extra clothing
  4. Emergency bivy or blanket
  5. Water (Jeff uses the Salomon XA filter for water treatment) and nutrition
  6. First aid kit
  7. Lighter/waterproof matches
  8. Pocket knife
  9. Compass and map (plus skills to use them). Jeff also likes the Suunto Baro 9 for creating and uploading routes to follow, and the Garmin inReach for serious backcountry travel.
  10. Other essentials, like sunscreen, traction devices, or trekking poles

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