trail report

On the Rise


Trail use and demand for trails is on the rise again. 

Nationwide, there was an average increase in trail use of 9.5% between 2021 and 2022, and a marginal 1.5% decline compared with 2020—the most significant year for trail use on record. Notably, trail use in 2022 is 45% higher than in 2019, demonstrating enduring demand for trails across the country. This is according to recently released data from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), the nation’s largest trails advocacy organization, which shows that participation is near the record-setting levels of the pandemic. 

In an online survey, RTC found that a majority of respondents (62%) report using trails once a week or less, but 24% say they’re using trails more than they did in the past year, which is particularly true for Black (35%) and Latino (27%) trail users. In addition, many Americans say they’re interested in using trails more than they do now—26% say a lot more and 36% say a little more. The majority also say that trails contribute to the well-being of the community—44% saying a great deal and 43% saying a moderate amount. Top reasons for using trails include exercise (66%), enjoying a bike ride or walk (59%), spending time in nature (52%), recreation (45%) and managing stress (45%). (RTC’s study was conducted online in September, with a sample size of 1,200 adults over age 18, including an oversample of 200 Black and 200 Latino respondents.)

When it comes to product and trends for the trail, brands tell us that lightweight products with comfort, durability and versatility are top-of-mind for consumers. And according to our own recent consumer survey focusing on hiking and trail running, consumers are shopping frequently for trail and hike products, with hikers sometimes opting for trail running-specific gear when hitting the trails. (See that survey on page 36.)

Here are a few trail-ready products catching our eye for 2023.


LOWA is entering the trail running category with the introduction of All Terrain Running (ATR) by LOWA. The line features three distinct silhouettes: CITUX, designed for fast trail running; the AMPLUX, for runners that want to go further and faster; and the FORTUX, for longer distances. The ATR styles feature the proprietary LOWA TRAC Sole system for traction in wet or dry conditions. They also have a carbon reinforced rebound plate for energy return and protection. And the shoes utilize LOWA DYVENA, a polymer compound that offers excellent cushioning to absorb the forces that occur during heel strike. Priced between $160 and $175, the ATR collection will be available at specialty retail starting June 2023.


This technical apparel brand with an impressive sustainability story was founded in 2021 by Jamie Hunt, who co-founded (and later sold) the 2XU performance apparel brand. The brand aims to make sustainable products without sacrificing technical performance, focusing not simply on recycled materials, but on the entire production process and a garment’s end-of-life impact on the planet. Anatomic fit, next-to-skin comfort, moisture management, compression, and ventilation are also top priorities in each garment’s design. Pressio’s Renew collection includes fleece and insulated pieces designed to crossover for workouts or leisure, with fabrication aimed at moisture management, comfort and protection from the cold. 

Outdoor Research

Built for a wide range of active pursuits in cold weather, the $229 Deviator Hoodie offers breathability and warmth thanks to a new insulation technology for Outdoor Research called VerticalX Octa paired with hybrid-mapped fabrics. VerticalX Octa doesn’t require an interior liner fabric and has an open structure, allowing it to breathe more effectively, according to the brand. The Deviator uses VerticalX Octa insulation inside the front-of-body panels, shoulders, sleeves and hood. A 20D stretch-woven softshell fabric on the front, shoulders, sleeves and hood provides weather resistance. On the back, side panels and under the arms, the Deviator uses a more breathable polyester/spandex grid fleece. 


These new Trail Running-specific poles from LEKI address runners’ needs with each carefully designed feature. The new Trail Shark Grip is the first grip-strap system developed specifically for trail running and is 30 percent lighter than the previous Shark grip with optimized usability for challenging trail / race conditions. Features include a Quick Release Button for fast and easy click-in and out;  lightweight construction and a foldable/packable design. The UltraTrail FX.One Superlite weighs 4.8 oz and has a suggested retail price of $219.95.


With the new Forest Green edition of Kahtoola’ MICROspikes, the brand will donate 2% of sales to the 1% for the Planet Impact Fund at National Philanthropic Trust. “Our goal is to create products that make outdoor adventures more accessible and rewarding and underlying that is the responsibility we have as a company to address the climate crisis to the best of our ability by minimizing our environmental impact,” said Danny Giovale, owner and founder of Kahtoola. MICROspikes have twelve stainless steel spikes per foot that bite into ice and snow for a stable walking platform. A durable, ergonomically shaped harness features a raised heel tab to easily pull over shoes and boots while retaining its elasticity down to -22°F. 

Alter Ego Running

This Florida-based performance headwear company makes hats that not only have a technical story, but a stylish one, too. They make premium running hats designed and constructed for all-day, morning-run-to-after-hours play. The brand’s AER Splash water repellent tech keeps the hat from getting waterlogged. The water beads up and runs right off the hat. Pictured here is the $49 Cruiser Splash in Black Teal Pink Camo. It has a hidden pocket that can store a key or small nutrition item and it is lightweight and moisture wicking.

Body Glide

This fragrance-free version of Body Glide’s anti-chafing moisturizing balm protects the skin against rubbing that causes chafing, irritation, foot blisters and raw skin. It is easy to apply and sweat-and-water-resistant. It doesn’t clog pores and uses a long-lasting formula that is effective in heat and humidity and when it’s cold and dry. Use on the neck, feet, arms or anywhere skin gets rubbed the wrong way.


Ready to tackle the outdoors? Xelero is introducing the Steadfast Trail in Fall ’23. Xelero’s footwear features patented motion control technology that is designed to provide the perfect balance of support and cushioning. With the Steadfast Trail, Xelero delivers its signature tech in a trail-ready performance package that is durable, comfortable, waterproof and breathable. MSRP $234.99.


The brand’s best-selling Atom sneaker goes rugged with the new Atom Trail. The $160 style is designed for hiking and is built to deliver adaptive heel cushioning and arch support for comfort. Multi-directional treads offer stability, and an abrasion-resistant mesh upper keeps dirt out and airflow in. It also features a protective toe bumper.


The Ultra Carbon RC is the brand’s first Dynamic Carbon Plated trail shoe. It features a Carbitex GearFlex carbon plate with a swallowtail design. The plate increases stiffness as you run faster and retains flexibility at a slower pace. What does that mean? For trail running, carbon plates need to be lightweight, thin and more flexible — that’s why it’s not a full-length carbon plate. Trail runners need more agility and ground feel. So, the carbon plate inside this shoe, created by Scott and Carbitex, is split under the forefoot and towards the heel, allowing for lateral flex. 


The new ROCLITE ULTRA G 320, $190, from inov-8 is specifically designed with the comfort, grip and protection to tackle long-distance runs over soft, muddy ground as well as hard-packed trails. The brand first launched ROCLITE 18 years ago, and say this new style is the most cushioned ROCLITE to date. It features the use of Graphene in both its rubber studded outsole and foam cushioned midsole, for longer-lasting performance and durability. The studs on the shoe are 6mm in depth, allowing for a better grip in muddy, winter conditions. 


The Katabatic is a trail-ready style with an athletic vibe. The lightweight hiker is designed for hikers looking for speed in a shoe that also provides the support, stability, protection, and performance of a hiking boot. A welded TPU heel cup wraps the foot for stability and protection while a welded TPU toe provides additional protection. Its rockered sole profile provides a smooth ride while the outsole provides exceptional grip and features a multi-directional lug pattern for superior acceleration and braking. Available in mid and low in waterproof and non-waterproof in Men’s and Women’s styles. MSRP Mid $155 (B-Dry $170)/ Low $130 (B-Dry $145).


The ULT-TRN Mid, $200, is a Fall ’23 men’s style that offers a light, modern vibe with a mix of oiled nubuck leathers made in ECCO’s tanneries using water-saving DriTan technology. The ULT-TRN is fully PFC-free and employs the firm’s own waterproof membrane to keep feet dry and cozy. A padded collar provides ankle support, while an open hook allows for easy on/off.


The Visby, $189.95, is a Fall ’23 men’s outdoor boot that takes on a monochromatic black hue allowing it to be a true crossover style. It could be worn from work to the trail to dinner. Padded faux fur lining provides warmth. The OrthoLite O-Therm insole technology creates a thermal barrier that elevates footwear temperature regulation, all-day comfort and cold weather protec-tion. The outsole is equipped with Vibram Arctic Grip traction and Wet-Ice technology. Also featured in brown and grey colorways.  


The Spin ST, $179, has an aggressive lug profile with Vibram Traction Lug Technology, making it a go-to choice for running in soft terrain. Created for muddy or snowy trails, obstacle-course racing and orienteering, this Fall ’23 style minimizes cushioning in favor of maximum traction. The Vibram Megagrip sole uses 7mm lugs with smaller lugs on the sides of larger ones for added traction. The upper — made with a 95 percent recy-cled fabric — features an extended ankle collar to keep the elements out.